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Because of President-elect Obama’s plans to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure, some recent discussion of smart growth has focused on proposals for huge projects, such as rebuilding America’s rail network.
But walkability often depends on much smaller steps, steps that require changes in tiny increments of space.
Occasionally, someone familiar with my scholarship asks me: why do you care about walkability and sprawl and cities? Why is this cause more important to you than twenty other worthy causes you might be involved in?
The answer: Freedom. I grew up in a part of Atlanta that, for a carless teenager, was essentially a minimum-security prison. There were no buses or sidewalks, as in many of Atlanta’s suburbs and pseudo-suburbs. But in my parents' non-neighborhood, unlike in most American suburbs, there were also no lawns to walk on, so if you wanted to walk, you had to walk in the street - not a particularly safe experience in 40 mph traffic.
Last Friday, I was in two different suburban environments in Atlanta. Both are sprawl by any normal definition of the term - car-oriented environments where residential streets are separated from commerce, sidewalks are rare, and densities are low. But the two places are as different as sprawl and new urbanism.