Sunday, July 20, 2008

Not Just For Political Blogging and Porn! - Part 2

So, further clicking around the inter-webs, I found this cool website,, where you can see cool, interactive maps of major cities and their relative walkability.

This is important because as we run out of oil and the world we know right now grinds to a halt, we're going to need those darned cities to be as walkable as possible since it will no longer be economically feasible to drive to a 7-11 to get a quart of milk in Phoenix or Dallas or Jacksonville or any of the other sprawling sunbelt drive-o-topias where voluptuous golf courses and cookie-cutter suburbs chew up arable farmland and suck the water-table dry in the name of green, green lawns and beautifully sculpted 9th holes. Those days are fast running out.

New York City is #2 on the list and the only one with any neighborhood to score a perfect 100. New York had three such 'hoods: Chinatown, Little Italy and SoHo. San Francisco is #1, with a greater number of 90+ neighborhoods than NYC, but no perfect 100s - although I think this system of ranking walkability fails to take into account the fact that those damned hills do impede walkability noticeably. That's why they installed the famous street cars in the first place, not as a novelty but as an absolute necessity. On that score, NYC also out-strips San Fran in the public transportation category, though (in all fairness) this website is about walkability and not car-free mobility.

I do think the two notions are intertwined, however, and are inclusive of not just low-enviro impact transportation options like overlapping regional and city rail systems supplemented by bus routes and bike lanes, but of transforming the public understanding of land use and the arrangements by which we feed and provision ourselves and our cities and towns. Gone are the days of year-round produce - no more strawberries in winter or avocados in the autumn - because we can't truck the stuff cross-country anymore, no more than we can continue to burn petroleum to ship cheap plastic crap (also made with petroleum) half way around the world from China to stock the shelves of the local-economy destroying WalMart. We have to re-think our whole way of doing things.

Electric cars are not the answer. Ethanol cars are not the answer. Solar-wind-biofuel-hamster-powered cars are not the answer. Auto-mobility is going the way of the dodo because we can no longer afford to pollute the planet to keep people able to have their alone-time idling on the freeway, listening to Rush Limbaugh while toxins spew from the tailpipe and the radio, and slowly, inexorably use up all the fuel we have left in the cool, green hills of earth. Our living arrangements will change and the car will not be part of that.

Compact, walkable cities are the answer.


1 comment:

Izzy O'Rainey said...

I had started a response about alagae biodiesel and "bike-ability" and about food still coming on trucks (which you covered). But I stopped.

I work in an office building 6 miles from my home in a neighborhood I couldn't possibly afford on my salary.

What's your timetable for the Star Trek world where I don't have to work for money and can live in a dense-but-totally-biodegradable neighborhood with recycled-cardboard streetcars that run on rainbows and unicorn farts?

(keep in mind that part of my job is pulling your leg)