The Isolation of the Suburbs

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Isolation of the SuburbsLiving in the suburbs is certainly not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it is quieter and generally less hectic, but there is also a down side to this lifestyle. Picking up a few groceries, dropping something at the post office, handling a quick bank transaction or grabbing a bite to eat…all of this involves getting into the car and driving somewhere. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be able to accomplish these tasks on foot. Better for me and better for the environment. Just better all around. The whole idea of moving people out of the city may have sounded like a good idea at the time, but, in retrospect, it has not panned out to be such a good plan. Without people, cities die. My own hometown of Detroit has suffered this fate, as have many others. We must learn from these lessons. History speaks and we must listen. Let’s work to revitalize our wonderful treasures, our great cities.

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8 responses »

  1. I sort of understand I taught in a Suburb outside Minneapolis for 25 years but always lived right in the city- the commute was hell but loved coming back to the city- we knew everyone on our block had our own post office- coffee shop grocery store and yes walkable. Now we live up state in a forest it is beautiful but it can get to be pretty isolating.

    • Thanks for your comments, Terry. I prescribe frequent trips to the city. Almost any city helps me as I find them all very stimulating with their diversity and activity level. I have to admit, though, that New York City is my favorite city in the world.

  2. Hi Vicky. First, let me say, I LOVE your journal pages, and I love that you address ideas and problems in them. I also think your blog post is great, in that it provokes thought on this topic. Now, having said all that, I have a bit different take on this issue. I sometimes do ghost-writing, if the topic interests me, and I did some work a year or so ago where I got to utilize an urban planning research database. And what I found there is appropo to this. A large nation-wide study was done of all American urban centers as to how they grew to be and how annexation and zoning played a part, both in the city and in surrounding communities (many to most of which were considered suburban). What they found was a DIRECT correlation, to wit: cities who aggressively annexed outlying areas, and small communities who aggressively restricted diverse growth through zoning, BOTH tended to have less rich and diverse cultures. Ones who did not tended to have more culturally diverse existences. I guess my bottom-line is, it’s not so cut-and-dry as cities good, suburbs bad. I’ve lived in a big city, a diverse suburb and a “dead” suburb. I grew up in a culturally diverse suburb and felt claustrophic in the city, even after 5 years of being within walking distance of downtown. The “dead” suburb was neighborhoods and little else, heavily restricted by zoning. Turns out that many big cities controlled their cultural competition through annexing Levittown-like new home construction and enacted strict zoning to keep it “dead”. Sometimes they couldn’t control it and annexed culturally diverse areas, thereby extending that big-city diversity. I hail from one town that was 3 in the 1940’s, received overtures of annexation by the big city 30 miles away and decided to merge the 3 towns into one and incorporate because they did not want to be “eaten up”. My town did not even consider zoning until 20 years ago, so its diverse culture was already established and grandfathered in and respected. Personally, having experienced both a culturally diverse big city and a culturally diverse bedroom community suburb, I’ll take the latter any day. I feel bad for those “Levittown” residential projects that will be so heavily zoned that they can never evolve into a whole community. The culprit may just be in the legal restrictions, and how dark and looming that big-city shadow is. There ARE many wonderful suburban places to live. A look at how a suburb has evolved may hold the key to finding a good one. xoxo

    • Aimeslee, thank you for sharing your interesting perspective on this subject. I agree with much of what you are saying. I’m also aware that there are pros and cons to each situation and certainly to each community. It’s always good to hear what others are thinking, which is why a subject that pops into my head ends up on my journal pages and, ultimately, gets posted here. To begin a conversation is a bonus. Thanks again.

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