The good news is that four St. Louis suburbs made a national “Best Place to Live” list. The bad news is that one of the criteria is ease of car commuting.
This particular list was created by Coldwell Banker Real Estate and uses as its criteria to choose its top 100 best suburbs in America being able to commute by car, proximity to good schools, a high level of community safety, and nearby retail, grocery stores and banks.
I don’t understand how a major national realtor can not only overlook the benefits of community planning for bikes and pedestrians, but perpetuate the tired notion that carefree driving is emblematic of a great community. We simply cannot continue believing that we are being served by the status quo. Obesity, poor air quality, polluted waters, and soaring oil prices are all irrefutable indicators that too much times spent in cars is bad for people and bad for building community. And yet we’re encouraged to celebrate those communities that make it easiest for us to do just that.
If one looks at the balance of this list of what makes a community a great place to live, it becomes clear that the car is out of place. Proximity to good schools and nearby retail, grocery stores and banks? That tells me that being able to travel to those important destinations on foot or by bike is an important asset. And a high level of community safety? That’s best accomplished through “eyes on the street” – the eyes of people who are walking and cycling, not those who speed through neighborhoods with their windows up.
I am fortunate to live near my local school, bank, and grocery store. It allows me to transport myself there. It allows me to reserve my car for trips I cannot take on my bike or on foot. But I don’t fool myself – once I’m in my car I don’t blame anybody else if my commute is not easy. Once I’m in my car I am not “stuck in traffic” – I am traffic.