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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Desire Carts

This is not what "walkability" looks like when you watch flashy presentations by planning consultants:

Nevertheless, this is more representative of the lived experience of many communities that actually rely on walking than all those photos of people strolling with their overpriced coffee along cute downtown streets, before getting back in their cars to drive home. These are places where people practice walking for their routine needs. For many people, walking is not a neighborhood amenity, effort to save the environment, or personal fitness choice. It's simply the most practical way to get things done.

That doesn't mean it is easy and convenient, or even always safe. Often enough, people are walking in places that were not planned or designed with pedestrians in mind. Problems notwithstanding, the "walkability" of these places is a fact defined by their very usage.

It is precisely by identifying places where people walk, despite seemingly undesirable conditions, and then observing how they do it, that we can better understand how to make places where people will walk. By focusing on these locations, we also have an opportunity to improve conditions for the people who already depend on walking there while making it more attractive for even more people to join them.

One fascinating indicator of pedestrian activity in suburban-style development is what I refer to as "desire carts." They're odd clusters of shopping carts on the far edges of parking lots. These shopping carts accumulate where people leave them when continuing on foot.