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Tag Archives: walkable
Los Angeles is strapped for cash. Officials are resorting to the equivalent of digging under sofa cushions for change: ticketing unlicensed dog owners, cracking down with parking tickets, and raising Metro fares. But they’re going about it the wrong way — there’s gold right in LA’s streets, just waiting to be exploited. All that’s needed is a proper vision.
In 2008, according to the U.S. Census, 720,000 Americans commuted to work by bike–43 percent more than in 2000. It would be nice to say that the growth was driven by a concern for the climate, but the main reason is economics. “People bike because it’s fast, cheap, and easy to get around,” says Penalosa, “not because it’s good for the environment.” Christopher Leinberger, a land-use strategist at the Brookings Institution, notes that people who are auto-dependent spend 25 percent of their income on transportation, compared with 9 percent for those who walk, bike, or take public transit.
What, exactly, is a neighborhood? People on all sides of the urban conversation talk about neighborhoods, trotting them out to support everything from transit oriented development to the suburban status quo, from Smart Growth to no growth. Formal definitions vary, but few include criteria beyond a set of distinctive characteristics shared by a contiguous geographic area inhabited by people who behave neighborly. Which, despite its vagueness, sounds sensible enough. Imprecise, but sensible. And yet, when I think about the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, or spent time in, few of them fit even this ambiguous definition.
Portland, like its famed streetcar, is an interesting case. It boasts many of the pieces found in successful cities and some that no other American cities can match. The streetcar. Light rail. Cycle tracks. Skateboard tracks. An aerial tram. Traffic calming. No major downtown arterials. Local music. Local art. Local beer. Great food. Environmental awareness. A history of proactive and progressive decision making. Historic urban fabric. Food trucks. Park blocks. It’s walkable. It’s bikable. There is much to like in Portland, and the hype is not all smoke and mirrors.
I grew up during the grunge era, with Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder for role models, and the notion that a city could simultaneously spawn and embrace musical icons of social and political dissidence and the bourgeois haughtiness of, say, Frasier Crane, always fascinated me. Seattle was the only major coastal city in the U.S. I hadn’t yet spent time in; I was ready to fall in love. Continue reading