Walkable Life: Part II

A continuation of Walkable Life: Part I

My work-arounds for not having a car in Miami, something my naive self may have once considered a hardship, in some way or another influenced my interest in urban geography and my current attempt to live out a lifestyle based in new urbanism – a life that now feels so connected and invested to where I live.  New urbanism works to promote the same city planning tenets that were used prior to the rise of the car in an attempt to (re)create walkable and bike-able mixed-use neighborhoods.

When I decided to move to Athens, GA to start my Ph.D last year, I knew that I wanted to live a life that was not dependent upon the use of a car. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little Kia Soul, but I wanted to be able to walk or bike to 90% of my daily activities and use my car only when completely necessary (driving a friend to the airport, going on a road trip, moving furniture, etc.). That is why, while perusing the thousands of Craigslist listings, I narrowed down my search to the Boulevard neighborhood.

562987fee63511e1baac22000a1cddc4_7Boulevard, while not a prime example of an “ideal” new urbanism neighborhood, has many of the features from this style of urban design. First off, there are sidewalks lining all of the streets, narrow streets I may add, shaded by the growth of immense trees. This means that you can walk anywhere within the neighborhood and do not have to feel unsafe walking on the road. Also, these narrow streets are often lined with parked cars that make it rather difficult for other cars to speed, increasing safety for pedestrians and bikers.

Most importantly, parts of the neighborhood are mixed-use. A quick search using www.walkscore.com shows that my address has a walkability score of  85/100 – which means that Boulevard is considered “very walkable.”  Within a five to ten minute walk from my house, or a one to two minute bike ride, I can shop at the Daily Grocery Co-op to get some fresh vegetables and other food items, have my hair cut at Model Citizen Salon, buy a new book at the Avid Bookshop, or eat at The Grit, Heirloom Cafe, or White Tiger Gourmet (two of which are within the neighborhood-proper amongst the houses, and one that offers a 10% discount to those who walk or bike there). The phrase, “live, work, play” suits a neighborhood influenced by new urbanism, and Boulevard in Athens is a near fit, although I have to travel about 2 miles to get achieve the “work” portion.

Now, I cannot imagine a lifestyle that is dependent solely upon a car. For the past year, I have tried to use my car only when necessary and as a result, I feel fitter from walking and biking everywhere, and far more connected with Athens than I may have felt otherwise. I would like to have a similar situation for the rest of my life.

ca9143847e8d11e29a2a22000a1fb02b_7

When I think ahead to where I may end up after the 4 years of my doctoral program, I am concerned with walkability and the bike safety of a new a city.It is nice to be able to achieve health and a connection to your place of residence simply by living in it and carrying out your daily actions. It seems like this frame of mind and concern is shared by others, so hopefully, by the time it does come to make the jump to somewhere else, walkability and cohesiveness of neighborhoods will be more than “trendy” and a bit more ubiquitous. As Jeff Speck (2012) notes, millenials are rejecting the norm that one must possess a car to really “live” in North American. Although he cites this behavior as mostly attributed to the recession, I can hope that while people in my generation are spending more time moving in the Manning (2009) sense, not just entering space-time, but creating it, that this trend will shift the norm and there will be a return to living understanding, being, and becoming by moving through a city.

7a4d79aa0b5711e282c522000a1e957e_7

Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Latour, B. (2004). Politics of nature : how to bring the sciences into democracy; translated by Catherine Porter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Manning, E. (2009). Relationscapes : movement, art, philosophy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Nijman, J. (2011). Miami : mistress of the Americas. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

St.Pierre, E. (2004). Deleuzian concepts for education : The subject undone. Educational Philosophy & Theory, 36(3), 283-296.

Speck, J. (2012). Walkable city : how downtown can save America, one step at a time. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.

2 thoughts on “Walkable Life: Part II

  1. I just went to the graduation at UGA in Athens in May and we walked our legs off! Because we could! It was a great city for getting around to everything from the campus and ceremonies, to dinner at the Taqueria, breakfast at cute places, shops, ice cream, everything was easy. Our legs were tired but we felt we’d earned all that we ate! Thanks for visiting my blog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s