Islands of Walkability in Cities?
In recent years, there has been greater recognition of the problems of sprawl and automobile dependence in "suburbia" - of the problem of vast landscapes of strip malls, box stores, and multi-lane thoroughfares that make cars not a convenience, but a necessity, and make walking nearly impossible (both due to hostile streetscapes and the sheer distances between destinations).
In some suburban municipalities, older downtowns - from the towns and communities absorbed by suburban growth - have become popular. For example in Milton, a Greater Toronto edge city, the old downtown has become an important focal point. For one newer residential development, proximity to the old downtown is an important promotional sell. In other suburban municipalities, downtowns are being built through redevelopment of mall and strip-mall districts, Mississauga's ambitious Downtown21 project being an example.
While there has been progress in recognizing and promoting walkable neighbourhoods, suburban car dependent landscapes are still pervasive and, in many - if not most - suburban municipalities, walkable mixed-use downtown-like neighbourhoods are still more the exception than the rule. The above sign - near Milton's old downtown - is evidence of this. It says something that a special warning is needed for motorists, that people ACTUALLY WALK on these streets.
Hassan Arif is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton where he is specializing in urban sociology and local government. He is also a columnist, having published for the Telegraph Journal in Saint John, the Daily Gleaner in Fredericton, as well as the Huffington Post, Sustainable Cities Collective, and Spacing. He has also contributed to Insight articles ...