The question I'm pondering is, "Does car-centric infrastructure drive suburban development patterns and car-centric behavior, or is it the nature of people that drives the shape and design of the infrastructure?" I'm torn on this one. I see highway and road design influencing behavior, but also see friends and co-workers making life choices that force car centric living (and the associated infrastructure to support it). At the end of the day, I'm not sure it's cut and dry.
This past week I was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a business trip. Prior to the trip I didn't know anything about the city and had even forgotten that it was the state capitol. I like to get a feel for the cities I'm visiting with a feet on the streets interview of sorts. Walking around after a day of hokey meetings is also a great way to clear one's head and get the blood flowing.
|In case you didn't get the hint from the horrible design. Walkers unwelcome here.|
The question is, "Did the road design only account for cars because the DOT only knows how to make highways, or did the mess of highways and shopping malls come from the development patterns that had to be created to support the people doing the driving and shopping?" In comparison, the Buckland mall in Manchester, CT has a network of sidewalks and walking paths. It's not my favorite place to walk or bike, but not entirely neglected. You can walk from the nearby apartment complexes to the mall. At no point do you see a "No Walking" sign like this gem in Harrisburg.
|Just when all hope was lost, I found this snowy trail network.|
The following evening I abandoned any hope of a relaxing walk nearby and headed downtown by car. Downtown Harrisburg is entirely walkable, and appeared to be reasonably bikeable too. There is a gridded street pattern and clear sidewalks. The riverfront had a dedicated pedestrian bridge crossing that was very nice. The housing stock in and around downtown was beautiful but appeared to be under utilized. Lots of For Sale signs and dark windows in the town homes. I didn't pick the best evening to observe the vibrancy of a city being that it was 5F and blustery, but it looked even quieter than Hartford. I ducked into the old YMCA building and took a tour of the building, that still had dormitory housing - a rarity among modern day Y's. There was amazing tile work in the swimming pool. This sort of thing just doesn't exist in the burbs.
|The beautiful pool at the Harrisburg YMCA.|
Your thoughts loyal BBB readership? Nature, nurture, or both?
|A multi-use bridge, car free, across the river.|
|Majestic capital building in Harrisburg.|
|Some naked folks freezing their bits off. Clearly in pain.|