Quick thought: walkable in the eye is the beholder

Monday I wrote about how false binary distinctions (this is right, that is wrong) block our ability to talk insightfully, and thus deal intelligently, with the complexities of real life situations– and how this is particularly problematic for people who try to make communities (about the most complex things we have) better. 

Yesterday, I asked my son a pretty simple question: “do you think we live in a walkable neighborhood?”

He gave me one of those how-can-you-possibly-be-that-dense looks that 13 years olds can deliver like no one else.

“Of course we have a walkable neighborhood.  I walk around here all the time.  There’s people out walking dogs every time you look.  How often do we complain about our dog barking at people walking by?”

For my question to make sense, you have to know something about the neighborhood that we moved into 16 years ago when we first came to Cincinnati– before this kid was born. He’s never lived anywhere else.

The view from my home office looks like this:


Yes. Single family houses, big yards, curving roads, no sidewalks. 

A colleague of mine, who did grad school after I did, tells me with wide eyes that his studio did a walkability study of this very neighborhood, and concluded that it was Not Walkable.

Who’s right? And more importantly, what do we lose, what understanding or insight about how people actually use neighborhoods so we completely miss, when we paint the whole range of places where people live into those black and white categories?

How does not understanding, and worse, not attempting to understand the full range of dimensions of how people actually live in real life and interact with physical spaces, hamstring out ability to actually create and a support spaces that will support the complexity of human communities?

Binary is easy.  Mine good, yours bad, is easy.  But binary blinds. And we can’t afford to be blind anymore.

Even a 13 year old knows that.

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