Several months ago, I heard Andrew Peterson discuss “The Mystery of Making.” As he talked about places and suburbs, he mentioned something about walking: suburbanites walk in loops instead of having walks that go somewhere or involve interacting with people.
As a suburbanite who walks both for exercise and in order to get to places, this is a thing. This could occur for multiple reasons:
- The design of suburbs limits walking options. Because of the emphasis on single-family homes and separating them from other uses, suburbanites may not be able to access many places as pedestrians. Can they get to schools, libraries, stores, workplaces?
- Perhaps suburbanites do not want to interact with many people. Suburbanites want to avoid conflict and interaction happens when people want it, not necessarily because of proximity or an orientation toward the community. Add headphones/earbuds/smartphones to this and pedestrians can be in their own waking cocoon.
- This sounds like a focus on walking as exercise as opposed to walking as a means to accomplish other worthwhile goals. Such a focus sounds like it would fit with American emphases on efficiency or productivity.
- If you really need to get somewhere, Americans often opt for a car, even when the route is walkable.
Having more walkable places would likely help here but it does not necessarily guarantee sociability or walking as transportation.