But as is often the case, the experience led me to dwell on the fundamental difference between walkable cities and a car-based society. Try as we might to reconcile the various “modes” of urban movement, the difference between driving a car and doing just about anything else all comes down to density. Put simply, in a car, more is bad; outside of a car, more is good.
|[I made a helpful graphic.]|
It’s relatively simple to understand. Just look at any car commercial, showing people driving their shining new SUV through a city street. The one common denominator is that in almost every case, the streets are practically empty. The ideal state for driving a car is to be completely alone, to have the city all to yourself.
Now think about any commercial that shows people walking around a city. Typically, you’ll see streets full of other people, maybe dogs, shops, street vendors. The ideal city on foot is full of other people.
You just can’t get around that fundamental opposition. Cars transform us all into misanthropes.
|[Please sir, I want some more.]|
Getting off and riding my bike down West 7th Street, I happened across the Winter Carnival Parade, then headed for the Original Coney Island for the first hot dog they’ve served in 30 years (one of Saint Paul’s many shuttered businesses). Later, the thrift store, a walk through the Crashed Ice, a quick tour of the Cathedral's interior, and a walk down the street to a friend’s party on Cathedral Hill.
Everywhere I went, there were people on the street. The city was so much more alive than it usually is. And because I wasn’t driving, I could enjoy it.