14 April 2012


FROM THE ARTICLE: Pedestrian in Nashville, Tenn. in 2010
Photograph by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos.

There is a great series of articles in
Slate Magazine by Tom Vanderbilt on America's problem with walking. Here are a couple of quotes from the first article, The Crisis in American Walking:

Which is what walking in America has become: An act dwelling in the margins, an almost hidden narrative running beneath the main vehicular text. Indeed, the semantics of the term pedestrian would be a mere curiosity, but for one fact: America is a country that has forgotten how to walk.

Despite these upsides, in an America enraptured by the cultural prosthesis that is the automobile, walking has become a lost mode, perceived as not a legitimate way to travel but a necessary adjunct to one’s car journey, a hobby, or something that people without cars—those pitiable “vulnerable road users,” as they are called with charitable condescension—do. To decry these facts—to examine, as I will in this series, how Americans might start walking more again— may seem like a hopelessly retrograde, romantic exercise: nostalgia for Thoreau’s woodland ambles. But the need is urgent. The decline of walking has become a full-blown public health nightmare.

The cities in the United States have for years been designed, first and for most, by traffic engineers with the prime imperative of traffic flow and accommodating a constantly increasing number of cars on the streets. All other concerns about how a city should work and look are secondary to this task that we, the people, have assigned them.

UPDATE: Tom Vanderbilt speaks about his article on NPR.

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