Yesterday we explored my ideas about the Disneyfication of cities. It was long for me as a post, though it probably should have been longer to be fully fleshed out. It was about how cities need to be more fun, walkable, and people centric, but with a major emphasis on the fun part. It was inspired by a movement that has much interested me these past years, collectively known as New Urbanism. The best and most entertaining expressions of this movement are a book called Strong Towns and now its assorted activities as a non profit, the wonderful YouTube channel Not Just Bikes, and the podcast War on Cars. All of these are essentially about the creation of and necessity for walkable, environmentally friendly, human centric urban design, and suburban and rural design as well, for that matter. They also do a good job of ripping off the veil of just how awful, toxic, costly, unwise, and unfair is so much of the car centric design we take for granted in our cities today.
But because this material is so well covered in the sources listed above, and in many others I could easily recommend, I have not had much inspiration to bring my own takes to the subject. But lately I have been aware that my life has been so dominated by the seeming inevitability of a culture based on the car, roads, and pointlessly dispersed urban environments also designed for cars, that even as a person now highly attuned to these issues, and well informed on them, there are still so many dismal things I take for granted. And sometimes these might be worth talking about.
My case in point today is my city's relationship to snow.
It has been a snowy winter, and an icy one as well. But as I look out the window here the roads look pretty good. There is a small strip of snow in the very center of the street, but four lanes of clear asphalt (plowed to the edge of the bike lane which is left under a layer of snow and ice). The cars are free and clear on a perfect surface. The city plows regularly to make this happen. In fact, as I write, the city even has declared some kind of special three day project of plowing some more, over every street, to try to get things just right.
But for sidewalks? Which currently are covered by every condition ranging from brief sections that are mildly walkable to many others that are dangerously treacherous, and with everything in between, every 20 feet is a new danger grab bag.
This sidewalk care is entirely the responsibility of the property owner.
Which leads to two questions that can only reasonably be answered one way.
Why aren't the property owners responsible for clearing the snow from the section of street in front of them instead of the city?
Why doesn't the city plow the sidewalks as they do the streets?
And that singular answer to these questions?
I refer you to today's title.