Euro-Envy Reconsidered: Talkin' Time, Distance, and Change

Most North American urbanists turn to Europe for inspiration and direction. Some of that brilliance, Ben Brown reminds us, is due to time and distance.

"The places you’re visiting were working their way through human settlement and mobility successes and flops for a thousand or more years before automobiles entered the conversation. Amsterdam was already a mature, globally important city when America’s colonies of immigrants were struggling towards organizing themselves into an independent republic. Even the oldest American cities have spent at least a quarter of their histories planning for the care and feeding of cars."

“'Don’t you think,' she asked, 'it will take a few generations to reverse that?'”

"So time is a component we impatient Americans often fail to factor into our change equations. Here’s another one: Distance."

"The hassle-free hop from Amsterdam to Berlin reminded me how geographically compacted are Europe’s countries. Consider: There are fewer miles separating Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Zurich, Brussels or Luxembourg in Europe than New York City and Atlanta in our country. Yet until recently, the Europeans’ proximity didn’t prevent thousands of years of violent conflicts. And even now, the transition into a true European Union is an uneasy one."

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