This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Why Phoenix, Arizona isn't walkable

I've lived all of my adult life in Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, California, and, like most people, have done most of my traveling by car. On the rare occasions that I have walked, it has been by necessity, not for pleasure.

There was a popular song when I lived in Los Angeles: "Nobody Walks in LA". And it's also true in Phoenix. If you read between the lines, it means that you have to be a nobody to walk. Phoenix, and Los Angeles, are designed for, and scaled for, cars.

I got my first car when I was eighteen, so I have a very hazy memory of walking. And as the weather gets beautiful this time of year here in Phoenix (it's October) I have started venturing out of my front door, on foot, here in suburban Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix). And while the few people I meet comment on what a beautiful day it is, I still feel like a fish out of water on foot.

People and cars mix beautifully when you're shopping. Nothing is better than getting a good parking spot when you are carrying out all that stuff from Costco. And it's also wonderful to be able to pull into your garage and be no more than a few feet away from your refrigerator when you're putting away groceries. My house is like that.

But just for an idle walk on a beautiful day, combining cars and pedestrians is terrible. For the most part, they aren't looking out for each other. Admit it, if you live in Phoenix, you have almost hit a pedestrian that you didn't see, or as a pedestrian, you have almost been hit by a car that "came out of nowhere". Maybe you have had a collision. I refuse to call these things "accidents" - they are "inevitables".

No driveways across sidewalks,
Minneapolis, Minnesota
And it suddenly struck me that there is nowhere in Phoenix where cars don't drive on the sidewalk. In other words, all of the neighborhoods have driveways that intersect the sidewalk. And if you've never seen a neighborhood that doesn't do that, allow me to show you the neighborhood where I grew up, in Minneapolis. This is a typical sidewalk that I walked to school on as a kid. Notice that there are no driveways cutting across the sidewalk. The cars parked on the street, or in garages in the alley. So you could stroll along, walking a dog, or daydreaming, and never be surprised by a car backing out, or pulling into a driveway, crossing the sidewalk.

No, I'm not pining away for Minnesota. It's cold there, that's why I left. And I do like the convenience of living in a modern city where cars rule. It's just that on a day like today I would like to walk along a sidewalk without constantly being on the lookout for cars. If you know of a neighborhood in Phoenix that doesn't have "cars on the sidewalk", please let me know.

No driveways across sidewalks,
Verrado, Buckeye, Arizona
Update October 31, 2013. I just had my question answered. There are neighborhoods that don't have cars intersecting the sidewalks at Verrado, in Buckeye. Saw them yesterday. Cool.
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