Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where The Sidewalk Begins




After arguing with us neighbors about it for three years, the DC Department of Transportation has broken ground on building sidewalks up and down my street. On both sides. Unlike most of the city, our street never had sidewalks -- mostly because the houses here were constructed in the 1950s. This was a time when developers embraced the view that Sidewalks = Crime, The Dangerous Element, and Possible Racial Integration....not necessarily in that order. But, now that we are much more culturally diverse and needing a bit more exercise -- not to mention saving on gas -- people want to walk again. And we are getting our sidewalks.

I was talking about this with a friend last weekend, while watching my son's boyscout troop make mascot flags. (Everybody wanted to be a panther, even though I was lobbying for the scorpion.) My friend told me about a number of studies that showed that in a neighborhood the most powerful thing that binds people together is a sidewalk. Compare two nearly identical sides of a street -- with one lacking a sidewalk -- and the people living on the side with the sidewalk will all know each other. On the side without one, it's unlikely that you will know anyone beyond your direct next door neighbors.

I'm hoping that this news bodes well for us. And I hope those familiar strangers over yonder are friendly.

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