It may or not be a bit of a curiosity, but I do not own a car. I have actually never owned a car and I can't say I miss the convenience of having one except on the coldest (or of late) wettest days. I don't have to worry about insurance or upkeep, about accidents or problems that might occur or buying a parking pass, or the cost of gas. And it is nice knowing that I am maybe helping the environment in some small way by forgoing having a car. I've relied on my own two feet and the use of city buses for so long that I don't really give it much thought, but two things have have made me think about cities and city planning of late.
Most recently--this weekend I saw the documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, which was really interesting and very well done. I was already familiar with Jacobs as I bought her seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, way back in the early 90s. It had been published in 1961, but I didn't know the whole story behind Jacobs and her fight against the urbanization that called for the leveling of vast swathes of vibrant city neighborhoods in the 60s (and which is still happening today). She was an activist who literally took on city hall and won, which just goes to show you what a community can achieve when they come together to fight "progress". I highly recommend the movie if you get an opportunity to see it--either in the theater or streaming later.
I dug out my own copy of her book, which looks at what makes cities livable--sort of from the ground up or at street level rather than looking down on it as a city planner might from above. Now I want to read her book and also read a recent biography of her that came out last year, Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs by Robert Kanigel.
Last week I unpacked another book at work that caught my eye and which I had to bring home with me, Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form by Julie Campoli. Hooray for walkable cities, which sadly Omaha is by and large--not. (This is very much a city where you need a car, so getting places for me can often be problematic). The oversized book is mostly photos, though I am going to try and read the essays. Twelve cities that were "made for walking" are featured from the US and Canada. It's good to know such places exist and wouldn't it be nice if cities spent more money and effort in making neighborhoods and city areas walkable rather than sprawling them far and wide? (Well, that is my wish anyway).