Saturday, August 22, 2015

Community Vitality and Sustainability Depend in Part on Its Equitable Walkability

As I read the article linked to below, as I noticed it weaving in a thread of the American myth of the individual coupled with the image of freedom, adventure and independence often linked to the automobile, that also downplays our reliance on others and our need for connection and community, I was reminded of The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg. Oldenburg argued that our cities/communities need public places (coffee shops, libraries, cafes, bars, barber shops, etc.) where we can access services, gather with others to hang out, converse and establish relationships that help keep communities viable. These “third places” as Oldenburg terms them can also provide an avenue for interaction of different socio-economic, racial, ethnic, political and other groups whose spheres normally wouldn’t overlap in the other two types of places (home/immediate neighborhood and work).
But as this article points out, these places need to be equitably accessible on foot (and by bikes), along routes that aren’t only safe from the tyranny of the automobile (or potentially crime), but also desirable relative to views, sounds, air quality, etc. and provide an experience that isn’t solely limited to that of traversing an asphalt desert. So as we work with key stakeholders to equitably implement complete streets, develop safe routes to schools, plan for mixed use communities or sustainably design facilities (from the inclusion of bike racks to a larger accounting for biophilia design principles), we're not just increasing individual health/productivity, saving energy/water or reducing GHG emissions, we're also increasing community vitality, resiliency and longevity.

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