The Politics of Sidewalks

In the aftermath of the presidential election, an observation by the star statistician Nate Silver about the connection between sidewalks and voting patterns has been getting a lot of play. Robert Steuteville tries to depoliticize walkability.
November 10, 2012, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Silver's simplified assessment that "if a place has sidewalks, it votes Democratic. Otherwise, it votes Republican," certainly seems to have some truth to it, especially in light of the anti-urban stance of the Republican party. Adds Steuteville: "Sidewalks can even be seen as a kind of metaphor for two kinds of living. Without sidewalks: Independent, anti-government, don't tread on my land. With sidewalks: Communitarian, we're all in this together, equal rights on this right-of-way."

However, as Steuteville points out, "[m]any people who prefer the city and town life are not liberals. Many small towns, with sidewalks and old-fashioned main streets, are politically conservative."

"Our nation needs places with sidewalks and without. We need farmers, we need ranchers, we need the people to work the land. But we also need cities and towns that generate most of our economic activity and, without which, the farmers would have no markets."

It's in the nation's interest to depoliticize walkability, argues Steuteville. "People of all political stripes can benefit from genuine communities with transportation options. Our nation can be strengthened by the sustainability and fiscal resilience of walkable communities."

"Maybe it's time we built a sidewalk that helps bridge the great divide between Red and Blue," he concludes.


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Published on Friday, November 9, 2012 in Better! Cities & Towns
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