It came to my mind that I should try to illustrate the misplaced fear people have of “the city” in a new way. My wife mentioned with disgust the juxtaposition of two headlines on the masslive.com website and, voila, an idea. The top headline read “Springfield Mother and Kids in Line of Fire”, a bullet had hit a car during a shooting. Meanwhile there were several articles, all given much less prominence on the site, which dealt with the death of several people in automobile accidents.
I wondered how many people had died in neighboring communities in car accidents since the last murder in Springfield? That was on October 4th and was apparently “gang related” and involved a “drug deal gone bad”. Again, since most of us aren’t in gangs, nor do we get involved in drug deals of any kind (or if we do, that is what puts us at risk) it is very unlikely that we would ever the victim of a similar crime. Be that as it may, it is now November 9th, and I’m going to do my best to account for all of the carnage on the region’s roads since October 4th.
During the same period at least 4 Springfield residents died in less densely populated locations in automobile accidents as well:
So, what’s the point here? An urban lifestyle may put you at increased risk for becoming an accidental victim or even perhaps an intended target of violent crime, but it also diminishes to a much more significant degree the risk of the much more common occurrence of severe injury and death which accompany every mile of vehicle usage.
In the last two weeks I have made several trips to work and back by car (The only aspect of my life I am displeased with right now), twice on the way home from work I have picked up my 89 year old mother and brought her over to the house for dinner, I’ve made one trip to Six Flags and back (6 miles) which included a stop at a roadside farm stand for pumpkins and apples, and one trip to visit family in Connecticut on Halloween.
That’s it, 14 days, 4 non work related round trips by car.
So, my family and I, we have “no life”. We sit at home all day and watch TV or something, right?
I wouldn’t say so.
In that same 14 day period we’ve been to the Symphony to watch the classic 1931 version of Frankenstein while a chamber orchestra played the original score. We went to the same location to see “Godspell”. My wife and I went to a lecture on Italian Renaissance art, cuisine, and sex at the Museum of Fine Arts. We went to lunch at Frigo’s, a spectacular Italian deli (no connection to the lecture!), and a friend came in from Boston to see Bill Maher perform downtown as well. Those were all special events, things which aren’t necessarily part of our every day lives it’s true. But we also did do the things which are part of our routine; LunaLucia walked to school every day, my wife and I walked with her down to violin lessons, drama lessons, and dance classes, and a few times we stopped along the way to eat at local establishments ranging from a “biergarten” to a pizzeria.
14 days, 8 non school related round trips…all on foot.
I make fewer than half the average daily automobile trips of the average man my age, my wife and stepdaughter less than 10% of the average daily car trips for their demographics. If you can’t imagine why that matters, “see above”.
This is what you can do when you live in a neighborhood with a walk score of 88. That’s better than NYC and Boston! Although, of course, there are many places in those cities where the walk score reaches 100…if we can become just a little more prosperous and attract just a few more businesses…who knows?!
PD: A little over a month since the last murder, another victim of gun violence in the city.
Final count, since the last shooting in the city, both of which (as usual) involved people known to one another and whose relationship is the prime mover of the violence, no fewer than 9 deaths on the exurban roadways of the region, nearly all of which were precipitated by the location where the accident occurred (i.e high speeds, low density).