Urban Planning and Urbanized

I've been thinking a lot about where and how we live lately. (M&K, as well as humans in general.) Today I watched one of the best documentaries I've seen in a while, Urbanized, about the design of cities. It was fascinating to see a diverse selection of cities....Beijing, Detroit, Cape Town, among them...and to see how architecture and zoning and transportation and human behavior interact in the planning, building, destruction and retrofitting of urban areas. The film is very accessible to someone without a background in urban planning, and there are some very interesting ideas presented, such as an approach to housing for the poor in Brasilia's slums, where they consulted with the people when designing the houses. Urbanized is available for streaming on Netflix, and you can also buy it from Gary Hustwit's website. (He also did Helvetica, if you are the kind of person who watches design documentaries.)

Pittsburgh is currently engaged in a comprehensive planning project, and I recently went to one of the community workshops. It's an interesting process to imagine what your city could be like. Some of us will always be more inclined to walk, regardless of the distance or how pedestrian friendly the terrain is. But I've often felt lonely as a pedestrian on certain streets. I wonder why more people don't walk. It's good exercise, you don't have to worry about traffic or parking, and there are three public libraries, 50 restaurants, a half a dozen yoga studios, coffee houses and art galleries within 2 miles of my house (a half an hour walk). Well, now I am developing an eye for the poor street lighting, littered sidewalks, or cars whizzing by at 50 mph within 2 feet of the sidewalk that make my walk unpleasant, and are enough to scare most folks away. Urbanized really showed a nice variety of plans, and also the conflicts that arise when you are trying to balance the various needs of a city.

Today Laurel and I took a walk. We had a purpose (hers was to find an acorn, a maple leaf, and a pebble...mine was to tire her out so she would take a nap), and it took 2 hours. I believe we walked about a mile. Sometimes I think I'm crazy to venture out without a stroller. Neighbors, you got a kick out of the last quarter mile. Laurel insisted on pretending that I was the dog and she was the owner. She even diligently picked up pretend dog poop along the way. At least she's a good pretend dog owner.

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