The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

27 June 2006

Oh, but we can't live there

Michael Bates turned up this plea from a woman in the Tulsa 'burbs, circa 1990:

I am a mother of four children who are not able to leave the yard because of our cityís design. Ever since we have moved here I have felt like a caged animal only let out for a ride in the car. It is impossible to walk even to the grocery store two blocks away. If our family wants to go for a ride we need to load two cars with four bikes and a baby cart and drive four miles to the only bike path in this city of over a quarter million people. I cannot exercise unless I drive to a health club that I had to pay $300 to, and that is four and a half miles away. There is no sense of community here on my street either, because we all have to drive around in our own little worlds that take us fifty miles a day to every corner of the surrounding five miles.

I want to walk somewhere so badly that I could cry. I miss walking! I want the kids to walk to school. I want to walk to the store for a pound of butter. I want to take the kids on a neighborhood stroll or bike. My husband wants to walk to work because it is so close, but none of these things is possible ... And if you saw my neighborhood, you would think that I had it all according to the great American dream.

Unspoken is the answer to the question: "If this is what you want, why did you move there?"

SeeDubya is a bit blunter:

So get in your car. So walk the two blocks to the grocery store. So bike in the street. So bake a casserole and take it over to your neighbors. So exercise in your home. So adapt, improvise, overcome.

Bad city planning exists. Bad architecture exists. Both are depressing and irritating. But, lady, but nothing stops you from going for a walk if you want to. So why donít you take responsibility for your own happiness instead of depending on the architects to do it for you?

I live halfway between an elementary school and a grocery store: it's about three blocks each way. And there were walkers out this morning at six-thirty, even a runner or two.

What we don't have around here is a lot of children: this neighborhood is largely young couples and empty-nesters, and not much in between. And I don't expect this to change any time soon: if you're buying a house in town and you've got school-age kids, your friendly agent will steer you away from my neighborhood, despite its manifest advantages, because it's in an urban school district and you can't possibly want that. No one will mention that this particular school is among the best in the district and competitive with what you'll find on the edges of town; they won't go out of their way to slander the place, exactly, but if you're already thinking the worst, because that's what you've always heard, they'll be happy to agree with you, if only implicitly.

Yeah, of course, "we want what's best for the kids." But the best often comes wrapped in a heavy blanket of the worst, just to keep you on your toes; "I can have everything I want" is pernicious Boomer nonsense that works only if you decide that you don't want all that much.

Of course, if you really need three thousand square feet, sorry, we can't accommodate you, and thanks for dropping by.

Posted at 9:06 AM to Dyssynergy

TrackBack: 9:51 AM, 27 June 2006
» A Tulsa mom writes about the impact of suburban sprawl from BatesLine
Found on a MySpace blog during a Technorati search for "Tulsa", this is from Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck: Another word for dependent is burden, and t......[read more]

That is why I'll never live in a "suburb." Never liked them. If the streets aren't straight, I am just not interested.

Posted by: Carin at 11:07 AM on 27 June 2006

It is impossible to walk even to the grocery store two blocks away.

Is she complaining because there aren't sidewalks? Holy helpless! How on earth did the entire human race ever get out of whatever place in Africa it first arose, without @#$!ing sidewalks!?

Lord, have mercy. Some people are just too civilized to live.

Posted by: McGehee at 11:12 AM on 27 June 2006

My street isn't particularly straight; in fact, its curvature makes my lot sort of wedge-shaped, half again as wide in the back as it is up front.

And in the 1940s, this was the very edge of town. Now it's viewed as practically inner-city.

Posted by: CGHill at 11:21 AM on 27 June 2006

To me, the woman quoted doesn't sound like she's complaining. She's making excuses for not walking/exercising as much as she should.

Posted by: sya at 4:44 PM on 27 June 2006

Hm. I don't have a car. I walk everywhere, or take the bus. Fortunately I live two blocks from two grocery stores (Whole Foods is about half an hour's walk away), and my neighborhood, an "urban suburb" (I don't know how else to describe it), has lots of nice streets. But I also don't have kids, and I have lots of free time and I don't have to worry about packing up today's child with all their accessories.

I've always lived in neighborhoods like the one I live in now -- mostly single family homes and some apartment/condo complexes that are nevertheless city neighborhoods. When I was a kid I biked everywhere, and people were no better drivers then than they are now. And we didn't have bike helmets. Or bike paths -- we were taught how to ride in the street and signal for turns like any other vehicle. If she lives in the 'burbs, what's stopping her kids from riding their bikes around in her neighborhood? Of course kids today aren't taught how to handle themselves on their own out in the wide world without the parents tagging along, so I can see why she'd be worried.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 7:39 PM on 27 June 2006

Perhaps she's referring to this:
Murder wave hits US Ďexburbsí
From Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, cities that rarely make a dent on the FBIís annual statistical surveys are recording sharp jumps in violent crime.

Posted by: MikeH at 9:48 PM on 27 June 2006

Reread the quote and saw the reference to design. Now I wonder if that affects the crime rate.

Posted by: MikeH at 9:52 PM on 27 June 2006

I don't know -- that article begins with a paragraph about a murder in New Orleans, which is widely know (and I'm sure by the FBI as well) as one of the most crime-ridden cities in the US. It makes the rest of the stuff about Tulsa et al seem like a kind of tangent.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 5:43 AM on 30 June 2006

Although New Orleans had been relatively quiet for the first few months after Katrina, suggesting that a substantial part of the criminal element fled the flood — and reports from Houston suggest they went back to their old ways once they got onto dry land.

Of course, you can't say that, because everyone in New Orleans is a victim and victims have absolute moral authority.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:15 AM on 30 June 2006