Even the most car-centric city holds joys for pedestrians / The Guardian

Hitting the open road...with your sneakers (or, if you’re in LA, flip flops). Photograph: Jason Rosenberg/flickr

Hitting the open road…with your sneakers (or, if you’re in LA, flip flops). Photograph: Jason Rosenberg/flickr

Walking through most American cities can be a desolating experience. Few are made for people like me, the pedestrian, who choose strolling and observing over cruising fast through constructed landscapes. Yet, there’s a perverse pleasure in walking through cities designed for cars; these supposed “open roads” weren’t made for us. Advertising’s promise of freedom is only granted to car owners. The emptiness in this exhaust-filled air is easily mistaken for openness, opportunity, possibility.

The walking state of mind is careless and free. The pedestrian has concerns other than the road. They can stop to acknowledge a person who lives on the street. There’s a chance to wave at someone who’s sitting on their porch. Catching a glimpse of items left behind, observing the lived state – weathered, graffitied – of street signs, understanding the landscapes that define place: these are the joys of walking.

The mind behind the wheel is always distracted. Pay attention to the road in front, watch the vehicles nearby, keep an eye on the color-changing lights, navigate that two-ton hunk of steel-and-moving-parts around others of its ilk. Steering a car is nothing like the natural physical coordination with one’s legs: its like an out of body experience – you float without any seeming effort, and life flashes before your eyes.

Read the full story on The Guardian:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/20/car-centric-city-joy-pedestrians