17 January 2013


Kaid Benfield at the National Resources Defense Council describes the nightmarish hostility of our built environment in an essay on the disturbing and sometimes tragic challenge of walking in America.

What you don’t see are any but the crudest accommodations for walking. This particular part of Woodbridge is a place for being either indoors or in a motor vehicle. If you were, say, an employee at the Pep Boys auto parts store, didn’t have a car on a given day, and wanted to grab a sandwich for lunch at Wendy’s right across the street, you’d have to walk nearly a mile, round trip, to cross the road with the benefit of a traffic signal. Even then, half your trip would have no sidewalk.

What many people with limited time would understandably do in that situation, instead, is attempt to cross the road using the shortest and most direct route between Pep Boys and Wendy’s, and hope their instincts and powers of observation would enable them to do so without getting hit. Some people do exactly that, without consequence.

But other pedestrians aren’t so lucky.

It's a nightmare, which is why in a previous post I said:

I do indulge in one very big luxury, which is not living in the great American suburban wasteland. This not only makes my housing breathtakingly expensive, it also nickels-and-dimes me with every carrot and bar of soap. Suburban living is actually more resource-intensive than urban living, but we've made it cheaper through a whole range of public policies. It is decidedly weird that a smaller living space, relying on public transit, and encountering hungry, miserable people asking for spare change every day is an expensive luxury.

Likewise, how bizarre is it that living without owning a car is an expensive luxury?

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