You might be an accidental urbanist if…
…you care more about people than cars.
…you enjoy walking to dinner or window shopping.
…you like kids and old folks.
…you care about your health, and hope to live a long and active life.
…you think trees are more beautiful than asphalt.
…you care about schools and believe in public education.
…you appreciate parks.
…you like to ride your bike.
…you care about your neighbors.
…you treasure the craftsmanship of historic buildings.
…you believe that your community matters.
…you realize that some places just feel right, and make you want to be there.
Somewhere along the way, I became an urban design nerd.
I’m fascinated by cities: how they’re built; how people get from place to place; and, most importantly, how I feel as a human being in that space.
My hobby drives my friends crazy. I’m constantly babbling about sidewalks, pocket parks, street widths, setbacks, parking requirements, and protected bike lanes. Also, I use the word “fenestration” in sentences.
In case you’re wondering (I know, you’re not) fenestration refers to the openings on a building–windows, doors, etc. It’s the thing that allows window shopping and people watching to occur. And it’s super critical to successful neighborhoods and streets.
But I digress.
As a kid, I was fascinated by old things. I loved old houses, old buildings, old objects, old people, and old ways of doing things. But I didn’t start thinking about cities, per se, until I found myself living in downtown Lexington, KY one summer during college.
Suddenly, a new world opened up before my eyes.
It was the first place I’d ever lived where walking was a valid form of transportation. Because Lexington was founded in 1775 and came of age in the 1800’s, it developed during a time when streets and neighborhoods were built for people who walked.
Here was a place where you could step out the door and stroll to an infinite variety of destinations. Parks, shops, restaurants, bars, schools, hardware stores…everything was within walking distance. Better yet, every step of the way was beautiful and interesting.
Because here’s the thing: when you’re walking, beauty matters. You notice details. You care about architecture. You stop for flowers. You laugh at quirky window displays. You appreciate art.
The result? Places built for people who walk are better places.
In the old days, we got this right by default. We traveled at a walking pace and cities were built to satisfy the needs of people.
Although we’ve spent the past 60 years designing our cities primarily for the movement and storage of automobiles, we know there’s a better way. We can see it in our historic city centers and older neighborhoods. And we see it in newer developments where people cherish a sense of place.
So let’s talk about what it takes to make cities and neighborhoods great again.
Welcome to the Accidental Urbanist.
– Sarah KobosRead More