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Thread: Article: Why Did We Stop Walking and How Do We Start Again?

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Article: Why Did We Stop Walking and How Do We Start Again?

    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Our city council, to its credit, decided to make a walking track around a park area of several acres. I urged them to have it engineered, at least by a landscape architect, and graded, to no avail. They just ordered a lot of gravel and spread it in a linear fashion. Have not seen it lately but am told it looks pretty rough after less than a year.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Getting rid of streetcars did not improve that intersection in the first picture. That intersection remained a jumbled mess until a few years ago when a consortium worked to free Campus Martius from ALL vehicular traffic. The result can be seen here. As you can see, the area is now focused mainly on pedestrians. It is not a true round about as signals are needed to allow pedestrians to traverese Campus Martius. Today's Motor City has miles of riverfront walkways that are connected to other pathways. In addition, many of its wide avenues now sport bike lanes. In essense one of the cities that is constantly being berated as the cause of all of the problems is coming up with solutions to provide more pedestrain and biking activities. One example is found in the Dequindre Cut. The Cut was made to provide frieght access to the river in downtown. In post-industrial Detroit, this is not needed so it has become a bike path that connects the riverfronts and Lafayette Park neighborhoods with the City's major marketplace, Eastern market. There are plans to extend this up into the area where the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Wayne State University exists. The Dequindre Cut also reseves right of way should a rail line ever get funded to get passengers to the General Motors headquarters. The circle is not quite complete, but its getting there. Its also getting people walking again.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I won't dispute that the automobile industry engaged in a propaganda campaign early on and attempted to influence public policy for its own self-serving interests. But ultimately the reason we stopped walking is because automobiles greatly increase personal productivity and convenience. Being able to to do more in less time was a major goal of the Industrial Revolution, and western civilization has demonstrated time and again its willingness to alter living environments and lives in order to achieve this larger aim. To ask folks at this point to give up their cars and bring about a decrease in personal productivity and convenience, will require convincing them that they'll acquire something tangibly greater in exchange for doing so.

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    Walking for the mind and body in a harsh climate

    I live in northwest Wisconsin in the Chequamegon National Forest, so walking here is a piece of cake. My dog and I set forth on the dirt road where I reside a couple of times a day upon a 1 1/2 mile trek. We are only limited during the two extreme weather times each year: the arctic cold when it dips (sometimes plunges) below zero; and the height of the summer heat and humidity when biting insects are a bane to activity.

    Two nearby urban examples of good planning come to mind. In Duluth, Minnesota, where I sometimes go for shopping or medical treatment, they have connected the entire downtown with a Skywalk. One can roam for many miles in heated comfort from hospitals and clinics to stores and restaurants. It is an investment in infrastructure that I've been pleased to watch grow for 30 years.

    On a much smaller scale, nearby to my home, the little town of Hayward, Wisconsin has created walking paths and dedicated bicycle routes that successfully foster foot and bicycle traffic. When the Carnegie Library moved from its downtown site near the elementary and middle schools to a place on the edge of town, the city built a bicycle path to it along a city street that is clearly demarked and separated by very effective rumble strips to keep cars at bay. I always see children en route to the library after school is out for the day.

    These are the kind of thoughtful planning ventures that will bear fruit for decades to come.
    Last edited by sancheq; 15 Jul 2012 at 2:40 PM. Reason: I left out a punctuation mark.

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    Cyburbian
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    This might be a little off topic, but what bothered me most in this article was the case of Raquel Nelson. Are you (the police, the court, etc) serious?!?!?!?! If a drunk driver strikes and kills a child in the road, the driver, who is already committing a crime, is at least partly at fault. At minimum, if the kid ran out in the road right in front of the car with nowhere near enough time or stopping distance for even a slow and sober driver to avoid hitting him, the child's death is a tragic accident and the only crime would be the drunk driving (horrible as that sounds). If the child was far enough ahead when he went out in the road that a sober driver obeying the speed limit could have avoided him, then the driver is guilty of negligent homicide. The only possible scenario in which the child's mother could or should be held criminally responsible of anything is if she actively sent or threw him out into the road.

    Back on topic, the whole relationship between special interests and public attitudes/culture in the growth of sprawl and automobile dominance was a tango requiring two partners, start-to-finish. The propaganda from the auto industry and its allies(oil, steel, etc.), government zoning and housing policies, financial/mortgage redlining, and ivory-tower progressive (and conservative) academics telling us that moving to nice class-and-race-sorted suburban towns (where we would all be decent, respectable and obedient good little citizens) would be good for us was real, and huge, and effective--thought it was not some big organized conspiracy, just people and organizations seperately pursuing their own hard-nosed financial interests and starry-eyed utopian visions. But all of that would never have hit struck such a powerful, lasting and successful chord with the American public if our industrial cities had not had such problems with crime, pollution, traffic, corruption, badly-designed-and-implemented regulation, and race/ethnic/class tensions; while our own culture was and is suffused with slightly-exaggerated ideas of rural virtue (listen to all the country songs today praising the singers' hometown roots and country ways, and trashing all things and people urban) and millions of urbanites treasured selectively rosy memories of their own, their parents' or their grandparents' childhood farm or village. Not to mention the benefits of going where you choose (infrastructure permitting) on your own schedule, and the benefits to businesses of having two equally good options to move their goods (fast truck or fast train) instead of only one (the train, with the horse being no real competition.)
    On the flip side, even w/o the big push from special interests, millions of people still would have moved to the suburbs, and millions of Americans would have eagerly taken advantage of the freedom cars can bring. But that movement would have been slower and steadier, many more of those suburbs would have been built more compactly like traditional towns or streetcar suburbs, and more people would have stayed put in the cities to tackle their problems instead of taking the easier, more "respectable" (and in some unfortunate cases, the only viable) option and running away.
    For the record, I'm rural born and raised, and have also lived in, spent time in, and been/am close to people from, urban & suburban places; I happen to love both city and country, and harbor no illusions about either.

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