I’ve thought about this same thing for years. I think over a decade now. And I’ve always lived in cities (except for three miserable years) and I love the urban landscape more than I can express in words. And I’ve been very frustrated for years and years on why people weren’t logical and just worked to make cities awesome? What is wrong with people that they live in the suburbs and make shitty choices and add to their overall misery.
And then…I read Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and Building Suburbia by Dolores Hayden and I decided I was going to (to use that oft repeated, and frankly annoying to me phrase), be the change I wanted to see in the world. I’ve gotten involved with advocacy issues. For me, creating a livable environment with access to healthy food is all that is needed for eternally blissful lives. So I started out small, making a phone call to a legislator, writing an email to a councilmember. Then I stepped it up a notch and began attending public meetings and speaking up: against parking garages, in favor of bike lanes, in favor of infill development, against expansion of freeways, in favor of increasing transit, in favor of beautiful street design that is inviting to its self-propelled users. Jane Jacobs has proven to me that someone with remarkably humble beginnings can make a significant difference and I am inspired to do the same. Two months ago, I did something I’m still very embarrassed to admit because it is from a logical perspective utterly idiotic: I quit my job to devote the next 1-2 years 100% to advocacy efforts. I am working on an incredibly local level – my own neighborhood. I am asking for a local skatepark for the kids in my neighborhood, I’m working on bringing Ciclovia to San Diego, I’m working on taming high speed streets to more people scaled ones, I am joining committees left and right just so I can speak my voice that believes in creating a city that is sane, friendlier and inviting to both its residents and its visitors. I want to see how much I’m capable of and the funny thing is, I’m learning that it is remarkably easy. There are a few wrinkles here and there, but I am insanely persistent and patient and I am seeing results. I’ve been at it for less than a year and I’m already seeing progress. Keep up the hope and don’t give up! If we all did it in our own communities, bit by bit – we’d soon see changes. Let’s just not give up and become complacent.]]>
Oh, definitely. We have an entire generation that’s been told you can’t have a successful life without a large house with a big yard in the suburbs. I’m 30 and have lived in cities quite happily for seven years, and my mom still likes to say things like “well, one day you’ll own a NICE house.” Meaning one like hers, two sizes too big, full of meaningless crap, and with a yard you could put a small farm on (although they can’t, the HOA doesn’t allow the yards to be used for anything practical). She still and will always see living in a city as a step down from suburbia. It’s impossible to explain to her why her version of paradise is my version of hell.
Still, I think the race stuff is pretty central to this. Around here in Baltimore, both the city and the suburbs are extremely segregated, and the black suburbanites seem just as confused as to why anyone would want to live in the city. In MD, it feels almost like everyone is slotted into a specific city neighborhood or suburban enclave based on their income and race, and even moving back into the city doesn’t help with integration, as we predictably moved into the white hipster section of the city. I still feel more comfortable and like I’m a better person here than in the suburbs though.]]>
I know many people who have been injured in bike accidents (myself included – never been injured in a car accident), and will be one of the first to say that road riding is dangerous. However, this is mainly because of the cars on the road and the people who drive them. Driving is dangerous for everyone, weather you’re another driver, a pedestrian, or a cyclist. Until roads are built to be safer, drivers are educated, and the numbers of cars on the road are reduced, we’re all sitting ducks.]]>