Cleanliness from a car

Michael Lewyn's picture

A few months ago, I was talking to a faculty colleague who lives in a part of Jacksonville even more sprawl-bound where I live, an area about a mile or so from the nearest bus stop and with a single-digit Walkscore.  He said Jacksonville was "safe and clean."  I was a little surprised: "clean" is one word I would never* use to describe Jacksonville.  When I walk down the sidewalks of San Jose Boulevard, I notice litter aplenty - and from what I know of Beach Boulevard (the grim commercial strip near my colleague's house) I doubt that it is much better.

So why do my coworkerand I view the city so differently?  My suspicion is that how we get around makes a difference.  Even though I drive to work about half the time, I still walk enough that I have a sense of what my neighborhood looks like on foot.   And when you walk at 2 mph on foot, you notice little soda cans and cigarettes dumped here and there.  My contrast, my colleague drives to work every day, and probably has little reason if any to walk to Beach Boulevard.   And when you drive through a super-wide commercial street at 40 mph, you aren't going to be able to notice litter (let alone urban hassles which have spread to suburbia, such as the occasional panhandler).

On balance I would rather live where I live than where my colleague does.  But my colleague does get to view his city through rose-colored glasses.**


*What about "safe"?  I would say that Jacksonville is about average, maybe a little worse, for comparably sized American cities- not tremendously dangerous, but more so than I would expect for a laid-back Southern city.

**At least if he doesn't watch television, much of which is designed to terrify people into believing that their city, state and nation are one gigantic crime wave! 

Michael Lewyn is an assistant professor at Touro Law Center in Long Island.



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