(200th post! Thanks everyone for your support.)
I talked before about the pain of being in a place that isn’t designed for you. It might have seemed a bit heavier than the usual fare here, but then again, if we were all happy with the way the system works, we wouldn’t be here together on this site.
So how do we get past the cynicism? Is there anything we can do?
First of all, we can acknowledge that there is a problem. Most people who are adults today never knew anything else other than auto-dominated places, but that this was created was not an inevitability. We created this, and we have the ability to create something else.
But if you’re just a regular person like me, and not a city planner, you can’t wave a magic wand and turn a parking lot into something desirable for people (or can you?) but you can:
- Vote with your dollar. Frequent places that value people over cars, or at least people and cars equally. Seek out the business that have bike parking nearby, hang out in neighborhoods with good transit options, or just avoid strip malls and big box stores when possible. Be creative.
- Vote with your feet. If you have the means (and I believe more people do than they think), move to a place where you can get around on foot more easily. I made a conscious decision to never live in a place where I needed to drive to work, and so far, I have been fortunate (not just lucky) enough to be able to adhere to this. You don’t need to move to a big city, or even a small one; towns with colleges in them are often prime candidates for being people-friendly. Here’s a litmus test: if your car died tomorrow, would you still be able to get around well?
- Vote with your voice. Community involvement is tough, because we’re busy and because public meetings often take place during business hours. (It’s almost as if they don’t want community involvement.) But if you can, become aware of your local town plans. If they want to bulldoze a swath of downtown to put in a parking lot, and no one shows up to at least voice a dissenting opinion, then we get what we get. (I’m not convinced that voicing dissent will do any good either, but it’s a start.)
- Vote with your vote. This one I’m even less certain on, due to standard-issue cynicism with the political system, but if there is someone running for a local office who thinks that places are for people (and that people will move around without their cars), you might want to support them. If no one is running who fits the bill, why not you?
(Strong Towns has a similar but much more comprehensive list of actions, which I found after I drafted this post.)
Have no doubt: changing our places is revolutionary, but as insurmountable as it may seen, we can do it. And I believe that when we live in places that are designed for us and not for our vehicles, we will be happier. Try it if you can.
But enough about me. What makes you love a place? What are your ideas for making places more people-friendly?