June 17, 2004

‘Slaves To Our Cars’

Development over the past several decades has worked to make our community anything but walkable. It's not just that we're fat and lazy -- we are -- but that our developers have left us stuck in isolated subdivisions. . .

These days, I live only about a mile from where I grew up. But the culture is far different.
My teenage children walk nowhere.

Cheryl Truman is writing in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, but she could be talking about a lot of suburbs west of Boston, too. She recalls when she was growing up, and "walked to the grocery store, drugstore, barber and bookmobile, all of which were about a mile away. A city park was about a half-mile away; a school playground offered green space and shade just up the street. A neighborhood pool was only a mile's walk. For distances greater than a mile, we rode bicycles."

And now? Her kids are "delivered by SUV to sports practices, even if those practices are only a mile away. They are chauffeured home from after-school activities. . . . Our family has one bicycle, kept mainly out of guilt; nobody rides it."

Could her kids walk to the store? "Not from where we live. Our tiny subdivision is an isolated cluster of homes with no sidewalk connecting us to any of the other nearby neighborhoods. Walking to the grocery store now would involve crossing an interstate overpass and dodging traffic down a narrow two-lane road."

"So, sure, let's call for a walkable community," Truman concludes. "But let's put some development regulation behind that, and some effort into connecting subdivisions that now exist only as suburban dots in the traffic stream."

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