The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

What is a Livable Neighborhood? June 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alden @ 6:01 pm

The Upper West Side is a livable neighborhood. In fact, all of New York City is livable. Edgewater (my hometown)? Not livable. Downtown Annapolis? Livable (Sort of). Greater Annapolis? Definitely not.

So what defines livable? Livable means that you don’t need a car to function. It means you can walk and bike to your neighborhood bar, grocery store, convenience store, park, playground, train station, and even your work without playing a game of Frogger.

When I was in high school, if I had to run more than three miles, it meant crossing my fingers and hoping I didn’t get hit by a truck as I jogged down the side of the road. At Dead Man’s Curve, right by my house, I always get scared I’m going to hit a kid on a bike because I can’t seem them and there is no shoulder. My high school was only four miles away, the same distance I am now from work, but it never occurred to me to bike it – it is simply not done. So I took the bus, which I hated.

I didn’t even go to my sister’s birthday party this past weekend. Why? Because she couldn’t pick me up from the train station and without a car, there is no way to get from Baltimore or DC to Annapolis. Literally. And I can’t afford to shell out hundreds for a rental car for the weekend.

What’s more, in Annapolis, walking and taking the bus has a negative association with being poor. Walking to the mall is weird, even if you are in the shopping center next door. You have to cross lanes of traffic and it’s just not done.

What if walking and biking were the norm? We wouldn’t need offshore drilling to support our oil habit, that’s for sure. We would have fresher air, healthier kids, and more disposable income because we wouldn’t have to shell out so much for gas. We would spend less time in our cars and more in nature. We would meet our neighbors, run into friends, pet each others’ dogs.

I’ve got a long weekend coming up, and you know what my criteria for a vacation spot were?

1. A beach

2. Car not required. I want to be able to wander from the hotel to the beach to the restaurant to the shops, without getting a Zip Car.

I can’t make a more compelling argument, though, than this video about a new livable neighborhood near Atlanta. One guy who moved there said he lost ten pounds! He just walks a lot more. I know it isn’t because he’s eating healthier, because now he’s always meeting up with his neighbors for a beer at the local pub. That’s awesome.

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