Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Talkin' 'bout my generation: sustainable mobility edition

In the earlier entry, "Understanding why Upper Northwest DC residents don't buy into the sustainability mobility paradigm," there are a lot of comments. And recognize that entry is a follow on entry to "Car culture and automobilty: 5 stories of inside the box thinking." Anyway, one of the commenters forwarded a link to the "Understanding" entry (not the earlier one) to the Chevy Chase e-list, and note that it was a re-post from that list forwarded to a neighborhood e-list is what generated all my posts to begin with.

So a person responded, which was copied into the comment stream. She summarized her response thusly:

In short, it seems to me that his entire thesis relies far to much on all residents being young, able-bodied people who have the time to shop daily in small quantities and who only ever need to go someplace close to a subway station or who could realistically bike or use a tiny car sharing service to meet their needs.

Seniors on a tandem, folding bike, Capitol HillThe funny thing is that I checked it out, and I am pretty sure the writer, Susan Conklin, is one to two years younger than I.

For what it's worth, Jan Gehl of Denmark is in his 70s, and he and his wife bike regularly as their primary mode of transportation.

I met the people pictured at left almost 7 years ago.  They live around Potomac Avenue Metro and bike to many places around the city.  When the man retired, he biked all the time.  Eventually he realized that he biked alone.  So they got a tandem bike and started biking together.

And some retirement communities and senior centers have active biking clubs, although these clubs are more focused on biking recreationally, rather than biking as transportation.  The couple pictured above rode to the grocery store, recreation center, and other places.  I didn't think to ask them how much use they made of cars, and whether or not they owned one.

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At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Christopher said...

Bill Cunningham, of the New York Times, is probably the most famous bicyclist in the U.S. He bikes as his primary form of transportation -- in New York City, mind you -- and is 83 years old.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger IMGoph said...

I'd be interested to see the voting patterns of those who are anti-density, etc., in Ward 3. How many more are conservative vs. the population of the rest of the city (it's my assumption that they are).

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

well, I argue that the farther people live from the core the less they are committed to "urban" principles. So W3 may be to "the core" as Clarksburg or Gaithersburg is to "DC".

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous rg said...

I am going to be a little bit mean here, but sometimes the truth is harsh. There is no doubt that some older people are physically unable to walk to bike, for a variety of reasons. But, I wonder how many of those people find themselves in that situation after decades of using a car for all of their transportation needs. I would posit that in many cases the inability to walk or bike in your later years results from decades of leading a sedentary lifestyle. For example, the only time my wife and I don't walk or bike to 8th Street, which is just under a mile from our house, is when my parents or my wife's parents are in town. They both live in exurban locations and drive everywhere for everything. They are physically unable to walk that far without getting exhausted. Conversely, I have neighbors who are as old or older than our parents who walk or bike that distance or longer on a regular basis with no problem. I'm not saying I won't face physical challenges as I age, but I am somewhat confident that my choice to live car-free in a walkable and bikable location will significantly increase my chances of being physically mobile when I am old. Plus, I still wear the same size clothes in my early 40s as I did in my 20s. How many people living in car-dependent locations in upper Northwest can say that?! :-)

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I see my previous comment didn't make it.

We are a nation of fatties that can't walk. And yes, on that one I do blame motorized transporation.

At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

also- and I will no doubt get in trouble for this- but a lot of women in our society are or have an entitlement attitude about convienience and they expect life to be simple and car centric living is central to this concept. I see this all of the time. I have a sister who gets a subsidy to drive to work when she could easily take metro or bike- and she feels it is her right to do this despite living in the city. This is extremely common . Women need to embrace cycling, walking and urban living- and we need to make it safe and safer for them- but a lot of them are just downright lazy.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger IMGoph said...

anonymous: you deserve to get in trouble for that sexist comment. there are just as many men in our society that feel entitled to convenience as well. your anecdote says nothing about women in general.

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the author of that email, and his like minded neighbors, plan to age in place where they cannot get by without a car. WHich means they will be holding on to their cars long past the day their driving abilities decline. As a new father, I took special care to avoid moving to such a neighborhood. I want my kids to be as independent as I was, sans chauffeur, and not be squished by a geezer in a land yacht.

At 7:46 PM, Anonymous Sirinya said...

I just wanted to take a moment to say that I *loved* reading about your friends who live by the Potomac Ave Metro station who bought a tandem because the husband realized he was biking a lot alone, and that was no fun. Adorable! Love it!
- Sirinya

At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can call it "sexist" but there is a real and very large problem in that women do NOT cycle in this country- and there are good solid reasons for it. Certainly not having separated safe bike ways is one - but a sense of entitlement is certain a part of the picture- and yes- there are lots of men like this- but in general you see many many more men cycling or walking for that matter in the USA- so it is cultural- not "sexist" or whatever. The last official numbers had less than 20 percent of all cyclists in DC as women. We need to do something about this and hiding behind the problem and calling anyone "sexist" for pointing it out just allows it to fester. In Europe - many countries have more than 50 percent of their cyclists as women. So this makes me "sexist" for the USA- and what about Europe? Obvioucly they do not have this problem.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Richard Layman said...

I think that IMGoph is right to point out is that what we should be critical of is behavior and attitudes and how they are expressed and acted upon, rather than to make broad generalizations, that with deeper consideration, are more about behavior and attitudes, not gender.

I could have argued that Susan Conklin, as a women, believes X and Y, etc.

Instead I argue it is a general sense of entitlement and what I call "car and automobility culture" rather than a gender specific behavior.

If anything, it is a suburban vs. urban behavior, but as I have discussed for years, even that can be somewhat of an overgeneralization.

It's better to focus on automobility culture, even with respect to the "suburbs" because it isn't true that everywhere in "the suburbs" is about the car.


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