Sunday, September 20, 2009

Really Think of The Future

The Saturday Wall Street Journal had a great article about retrofitting our sprawling suburbs, or in Lexington's case, our recent subdivisions. It is nice to see that I am not the only one thinking about these things or writing about them.
The nation's sprawling suburbs—home to as much as half of the U.S. population and more than 30 million people age 55-plus—may have been a good place to grow up. But the suburbs are proving a tough place to grow old.
The above quote seems to sum up the feeling I have about the newer subdivisions of Lexington and the Central Kentucky region. Homes that are placed farther and farther from schools, shopping, jobs and life's other essentials. But while this article is aimed at the aging population, some in the younger generations are being limited also(see this piece from the New York Times). Kids are living in neighborhoods where engaging in any activity outside the home requires an automobile trip. New schools supplies? A trip to the mega-center. Go to school? Ride the bus or the parents drop them off(causing a traffic tie up). After school get-togethers? The parents have to drive. Can the kids find their way there? Not without the Google maps app on their cell phones. This is not a good way to grow up.
Maintaining yards and homes requires more effort; driving everywhere, and for everything, becomes expensive and, eventually, impossible.
With or without children, newly married or empty-nesters, both parents working and no day-care living in these subdivisions tend to cause not relieve stress in a family's life. Driving to, or for, everything that a family does gets expensive and will get very much more so in the years ahead. This article assumes the aging adult as not being able to drive and does not factor in the rising price of fuel or its relative availability. Even the cost of getting services delivered to your door will become prohibitive.
Even something as simple as the absence of sidewalks can discourage older adults from walking through their neighborhoods and seeing other people.
The requirement for sidewalks along public streets has been in effect for some time in Lexington
and has been a bone of contention in developments with private streets and accessways. How strange it is to see that some of the more recent retirement/active adult gated communities have not provided for these sidewalks and force the older residents to drive or walk in the street. Lower speed limits will do little to restrict the damage done by an impaired driver to their pedestrian neighbor.

And speaking of the retirement/active adult facilities, there are going to be many more of our population that will need such living arrangements in the near future. Being shipped off to a facility is not what your parents(or you) should desire. I should think that the style of housing found in the early Ashland Park/Chevy Chase sections would be applicable to many of our recent subdivisions and quite a few of the ones of the '50s-'60s. Multi-generational subdivisions and housing types should not be a taboo subject.
"Planning has been based on wealth. We would build six lanes just to go to Starbucks; we would throw infrastructure and services after people, which was incredibly inefficient. This recession has given us a chance to think. It's a wonderful opportunity to get things done that you couldn't get done just two or three years ago."

Andres Duany

This recession and the eventual economic reset should make us think(and change) how we have dealt with development and our aging population and so keep our active and diverse community appealing to everyone.

1 comment:

lexdan said...

I can't remember if you commented on this one about a car free town in Germany from back in May. It is worth re-posting:

In sixth grade I lived in a small town where I could ride my bike to the park, movie theater, baseball card shop, etc. In seventh grade my family moved to a house in the typically new subdivision. It was built on a busy country road where I couldn't get to anything anymore. I hated it! People have this notion that these kinds of subdivisions are great for kids. In my opinion they are far from ideal.