Several years ago as I was driving Daughter #2 and her dog from the D.C. area to Chicago we stopped in Indiana. At least I think it was there, although it could have been Ohio for all the difference it might have made. Our La Quinta was across a major road from a shopping center and I elected myself as hunter of dinner. Asking at the front desk, I was given driving direction to a location which I could see from my office.
“Can’t I just walk?”
“Oh, why would you do that?”
and it was obvious that, to this young woman, no one ever walked anywhere. There were no sidewalks in evidence. There were no pedestrian signals at the traffic lights. There were no cross walks.
This morning, on our way to the North Berkeley BART station I noted that we were “in the city” as evidenced by sidewalks and crosswalks. Pedestrian signals abounded including along Shattuck Ave. at a couple of locations where cars could not turn but pedestrians commonly crossed the street mid-block . Then I started to think of the various locations where I have lived. In childhood, suburbs did not have sidewalks where city blocks–even residential areas did. In rural areas, there was absolutely no point to having sidewalks. After all, who is going to be walking 8-20 km along a state highway in order to go to work or visit a friend. Wheeled transportation is assumed when the distance is more than a few blocks.
Another characteristic of some cities (as apposed to suburbs or rural areas in the US) is the presence of public transportation. It is something that I took for granted while living in Germany and the U.K. Admittedly, it wasn’t always convenient, but it was by far more cost effective than driving, paying tolls, burning time and coughing up money for parking. Especially when looking at meetings in London which not only were difficult to reach via car but then there were outrageous parking costs + congestion tax.
(for those who are following the debate about congestion tax in NYC – this article pretty much makes it clear. Congestion tax doesn’t harm the poor. If you are poor in NYC, you don’t have a car. If it cost (in 2017) an average of $430/month for a parking space and the subway cost $2.50 …. it doesn’t take a genius to realize that public transportation is the way to go. For the cost mentioned above, you can take a lot of taxis, or Lyfts or Ubers when shopping.)
Which takes me back to living in a city. Berkeley is not a large city; population around 123,000. The estimates vary depending on whether or not you count students. We have buses, we have sidewalks, and are connected to San Francisco, two airports, and a chunk of the East Bay by BART. Compared to childhood, it is lovely to walk sidewalks rather than dirt along roads, to have cross-walks where it is more safe than not to navigate to the other side of the street, and to have shops within walking distance.
Not to mention a husband willing to get up in the morning to drop me off at BART. Of course, that means he has access to “the” car for the day (single car family here) but still…..city living can be pretty good.