The photo above is from one of my ShutterCal friends, Tavia McGrath, from the greater Salt Lake area. I was really moved when I saw it on her calendar – the sepia, the bikes, the old saddle and basket – and even more intrigued with her caption:
I live in a great, walkable neighborhood, but unfortunately it’s the exception rather than the rule around here. Big suburbs where you’re a slave to your car are the norm unfortunately. I feel lucky to be able to walk to the post office, the library, the grocery store, not to mention two big city parks. There are also a whole host of restaurants, coffee shops, and cool, independent stores all within walking and biking distance. It’s a great place to live!
We had a brief e-conversation about her neighborhood and the strong feelings we both have about the importance of social communities and sensible development with human-powered transport in mind. From what she described, there are several up-and-coming neighborhoods in the Salt Lake area with the “livable community” tenets in mind – from attractive (non-cookie cutter) housing, small independent businesses, community gardens, and social events to miles of biking and pedestrian trails enabling people to take advantage of everything without depending on a car.
Sounds like a slice of heaven to me.
This week has been Grant’s Spring Break, and we’ve been fortunate to have a few balmy spring-perfect days. We spent some time riding around town – along with throngs of other folks who were out enjoying the gorgeous weather along the greenway.
And it always get me thinking about that famous movie line, “… if you build it, they will come.” People genuinely want to walk, ride, and get out of the car when they are given the opportunity. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rather walk to the corner store for the newspaper than have to drive, park and deal with the nearest congested StuffMart for the same thing.
In these times when far too much of our social connectivity is linked through cyberspace, from social networks to email and the rest of it, I really believe that many people crave more real social interaction. From gathering at the coffee shop, or sitting at a sidewalk cafe table for lunch, or simply taking your kids and your dogs for a walk or ride along the greenway.
We crave a sense of neighborhood and a connection with the people within it, even at the most casual level. While our “virtual” communities may seem limitless, and are not without merit (as I think about Tavia), they are not always as “human” as we need them to be.
I really hope that we can change this … that we start re-examining the direction of our “progress”. That maybe moving forward will actually take us a little bit backwards – to two wheels, two feet, and connections with real people.