Two articles this week showcase examples of rapid changes both in thinking and in on-the-ground dynamics of suburban development. I cannot but hope that we are learning the lessons described by Jane Jacobs --the hard way, of course, for what other way is there for humans to learn?
The 'Smart Sprawl' Strategy
Suburbanites Under House Arrest Without Wheels
Cities must be able to provide for their own needs and not be totally dependent upon outside commerce to fill the basic primary and secondary requirements for living: food, shelter, clothing; goods and services, education, medical facilities, transportation. An extremely effective and economically viable way to do that is by allowing people to develop businesses in conjunction with their living spaces, within neighborhoods, and eschew the kind of thinking that these very unfortunately typical homeowners embrace; radical, separatist believers all:
Affluent Neighborhood Doesn't Want Bus Service
I used to see and hear this all the time. At my planners' desk, it was not uncommon for people to phone me and complain about "cutting through" neighborhoods. Roadway connections to adjacent neighborhoods was seen as equivalent to speeding and crime, not a way to save gas and cut traffic buildups on local roads. People would also speak loudly against greenways and bike paths going through their neighborhoods, and call sidewalks "a waste of money." They would complain about the dust, noise, and smells when they moved to a new housing development that had been unintellegently planted in the middle of working farms, and the farmers would counter with stories of how these folks' kids would trample crops with their off-road vehicles, scare and even kill the livestock, steal produce and supplies from barns and outbuildings. These people had bought into a lifestyle that could only be supported by dependence upon foreign oil, and was obtainable by only the very upper reaches of society. It showed an extreme separation from people who didn't drive everywhere, but walked, used public transportation, or bicycled. These people didn't want to belong to the world, they wanted to escape from it. Such a self-centered, unrealistic viewpoint is not only extravagant in the extreme (these are public roads, after all) but contribute to the insular dependency we face now: insular in that we shut ourselves off in our houses, hooked up to our individual television sets, and turn our backs on the world outside, yet in order to do so, we are totally dependent upon resources that we have sold our ability to provide.
If cities do in truth become a series of interconnected, interdependent boroughs and villages, as they were before the advent of the automobile that contributed to the insular dependent mindset of the typical suburbanite, I do predict that this will be the natural outcome of our dependency on foreign oil. But the mighty will fall with a bang, and they usually make very loud noises when that happens. Rich and powerful people do not take failure in stride. Those who have benefitted the most by this inequity of resources will do all they can to see that it doesn't happen. Better that they pray for faith, and grace to see it through, to hold out their hands to join their neighborhoods together and see them develop into wholly functional, healthy societies that cross racial, economic, and social barriers, than to continue to fight to hold on to their ultimately destructive living standards.
i am looking for a bike i can use to visit one of my two neighborhood grocery & shopping areas, both of which are within a mile or two of my home. i want a sturdy bicycle with a big basket on the front or rear, one of those old-fashioned ones from the days when Detroit made big cars that looked more like tanks than passenger vehicles. i can smell the sweet timothy-scented breezes on my face, feel those buff calves getting a workout already...
Last night the corn field behind my home bustled with reapers and mowers late into the evening. I am sure the neighborhood cats will be dining on displaced rodents and I'll have to wipe the dust from the windows. But the morning sunrise was lovely over the golden-green stubble, and hearkened to crisper days and frost-rimmed mornings to come, all too soon. Summer is over, autumn beckons. How wonderful to have that forced upon me when waking. How wealthy am I, not to be insulated from my world, to be aware of the activity of my neighbors who are different from me.