urbanite take

A Chicagoan opines on land use, transportation and the walkable city

By way of introduction

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I’m a city guy: I live in a city, and I care deeply about them.

I believe that cities are grounds for social interaction, laboratories for economic growth, collections of unparalled cultural institutions and repositories of amazing food, haut cuisine and hole-in-the-wall ethnic delicacies alike. The walkable, dense neighborhoods with buzzing street traffic that they possess are some of the most pleasant and popular places to spend time in the entire country. The aesthetic appeal of skyscrapers straining toward the clouds is unmatched, and the lively city boulevards teeming with people virtually pulse with energy.

Cities also offer terrible congestion, pollution and heat islands; staggering levels of segregation and dysfunctional school systems; rampant political corruption; woefully maintained transit systems and overburdened highways and roads. We like to think that we’ve long since moved past tenements, but the condition of some American inner-city housing is nothing short of shocking. And most center cities in America and indeed in the Western world are profusely bleeding people and have been doing so for the last fifty years.

Nevertheless, despite all of these flaws, I still love them.

A bit of introduction on my behalf, to give some context of where all this comes from: I’m from the suburbs of Los Angeles. Growing up, I didn’t really have a conception of what city life was like. I had no idea that there were really places where people walked more than to and from their car, or that rail was still a viable form of transportation, or even that culs-de-sac were not the overriding residential organizational principle everywhere. Then I went away, to the Northeast where I first saw New York, “the city” par excellence, and then to Chicago, where I am know. I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along that journey the city began to exert a hold on me; I can’t pinpoint an exact moment, but it just happened.

So I’m hoping to use this space to ruminate on the city and subjects that are close to my heart: urbanism and walkability; density and sprawl; transportation, both public and private; land use; cities I visit; and to point out interesting pieces, projects and anything else city-related that comes to mind. I’m partisan when it comes to what I think cities can look like — I believe in walkable urbanism — but at the same I’m also cognizant of choice and that fundamentally cities are composed of individuals, couples and families who choose to be there. Out of necessity, I’ll probably write a lot about Chicago, since it’s where I am now. My goal, though, is not for this to be a blog about Chicago, but a blog about cities in general. I’m a city guy, after all.

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Written by Andrew ACG

June 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm

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