So...most of you know I'm in graudate school to get my learn-on and more letters behind my name and with that comes occasional homework. In this case, I had to attend an Ignite Memphis speaking event and write a paper on the speech that most resonated with me. In this case, it was a presentation about urban living in pedestrian friendly neighborhoods that is on my life's to-do list.
Below is a cut/paste of the paper, enjoy! The quote in red is particularly good.
In my fantasy parallel universe world, I ride my bike to the local market. I’m usually in some white capri pants complete with an Audrey Hepburn scarf on my head and big Jackie-O sunglasses on my face. While there, I buy fresh cut flowers that I put in my little bike basket and ride home. I ring the little bike bell.
In my fantasy parallel universe world, I walk to my local barista to get a coffee drink, then relax on the patio watching the passers-by.
In my fantasy parallel universe world, my family and I pop around the corner to get a bite to eat (let’s say Italian), then leisurely walk back home holding hands and talking. We stop for ice cream cones.
Now for reality.
I live in Poplar Estates. There is no farmer’s market in walking distance, and a trip to the neighborhood Kroger requires crossing a busy six lane street. The closest Starbucks is about eight blocks away. There is an Italian restaurant nearby, but it’s never once dawned on me to walk there and there is no patio and if there were, it would overlook a parking lot. It feels strange to walk or bike anywhere.
People in cars look at you funny when you walk on Memphis streets. Is she homeless? They sometimes even call out mean things. On a bike or walking, am I safe from reckless drivers who are so unused to seeing pedestrians that I almost become an inadvertent video game target?
With this context in mind, John Lawrence’s presentation at Ignite Memphis on March 1 was of great interest. His topic: Complete Streets. His goal: To transform Memphis into a pedestrian haven with sidewalks and street infrastructure that makes walking and biking both easier and safer. It makes fiscal sense too. In the decade between 2000 - 2010, Cooper Young residents, who experienced this urban living, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, saw property values increase 32% vs. 3% for the rest of Memphis. In short, evidence from around the USA supports that residential property values increase when they are in settings that have pedestrian friendly sidewalks within walking distance to parks and shopping.
In addition to saving gas and transportation costs, this arrangement also makes better use of time and land. According to Lawrence, “We spend more time commuting in the car than many other cities. We spend a disproportionate amount of our income on transportation. We have overbuilt then abandoned second-tier suburbs and started building new communities that are 100% auto dependent because they connect to nothing.”
Furthermore, getting out and walking and/or biking with your family is not only environmentally sound, but healthy too.
Pedestrian-friendly cities also attract talent to their areas (vs. brain drain), and put such spots on coveted “best places to live” lists and not, as Memphis tends to be, on “worst places to live lists.” As a native Memphian, I despise being on a “worst anything” list, especially the fattest city list, albeit true. The shift towards walking to the park and biking to the market within an infrastructure that makes it safe and easy to do would easily be a win-win situation, for both the individual, their family and the city. I support Complete Streets and this movement and will do what I can to be a part of it.
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