John Oliver on “The Daily Show” insists that you can tell an American from a foreigner by simply asking the question: “Walk or drive?” My wife and I shared a night out with her sister and her husband and met at a local restaurant which has another outlet very close to where they live in Connecticut and, while I love it when anyone prefers anything in Springfield to anything anywhere else, I was taken aback that, as much as they enjoy the Plan B Burger Bar near them, they would consider driving here the next time they felt like a gourmet burger because of the convenient parking at the Basketball Hall of Fame. I was at a civic association meeting where a representative of a local cultural institution was explaining the initiative to create a cultural district in the neighborhood…the presentation for which explained quite clearly the pedestrian focus of the district…and the first question was about parking.
There’s just no getting away from it. Americans are programmed to think about cars and parking first, having an experience second.
I was describing my home to a colleague: French Second Empire style Victorian Townhouse, fireplaces, wainscoting, chandeliers, little urban backyard with fruit trees, a garden, a patio.
“Do you have a driveway?”
“No, I park my car on the street.”
“Oh, oh, oh, I could never live there.”
As I have mentioned, although both of my daughters are in their twenties, neither one has a driver’s license (My stepdaughter also does not, of course, she is only sixyears old) and both of them went to college in “urban Massachusetts”, and both have chosen to live in walkable urban communities. Much has been made in urbanist circles of the poll which found that twenty-somethings view their smartphones as more important than their automobiles. What’s great about this for me is I’ve gone from being a bizarre throwback to the XIX Century, to being at the vanguard of the XXI. This must be what it is to arrive without traveling. As it turns out, rock and roll was here to stay, horizontal development was the fad!