Pedestrian Martyr Culture

May 10, 2005

I sorta got on a role on this Vlog Site about walking LA.. a totally cool idea and great opportunity. I don’t think where I went with it was what they intended… but read on and you’ll get the idea. I posted the following in the comments section.
There’s an opportunity here to promote pedestrian culture.

I do a lot of walking myself and have really rediscovered the county I live in. One realization I had was that if anyone that claims to have a Green, Vegan, Humanitarian, or otherwise socially concious bone in their body drives a car, they’re at least somewhat of a hypocrite. Whether funding huge corporations (Exxon/Mobile I believe to be the biggest in the world), contributing to sprawl culture, or perpetrating any of the myriad vehicular villainies, we can probably agree that being such a car-dependant culture is unethical somewhere along the line.

“But it’s absurd to consider life without or with less driving,” you say?

Sure, right now.

Consider the way businesses hawkishly seek new markets and emerging trends. Solutions arn’t born of businesses but of the demand for them. If a major pedestrian (middle) class existed today there would be services marketed to them. If you exist en mass and have needs (and means) someone somewhere has already sniffed you out and is already trying to sell you something. It’s ours now to call people to walk willingly; people of means; people with a little bit of money that can afford cars but choose not to drive. It’s an inverse boycott, a new age form of activism where you can imagine such mantras as “BE the market” and “We ARE the emerging demographic, because we declare it so”…

The more people you can get on foot and onto public transportation the easier it will be for everyone that follows.

I ride the bus in Dutchess County, NY. If you’ve ever been on a major city bus (like NYC’s MTA) you know there are ads all over it because advertisers know the people on the bus are not only poor people with no other choice. The buses in Dutchess County, however, have all the same ads slots… but they’re all empty. The stigma is that only the poor and powerless ride these buses. It’s a simple example, but here lies one opportunity for people to change this ideology. If more people took the bus, there would be more ads, therefore more money to the bus system and hopefully a better bus system capable of accomodating more people more easily. Okay, so that’s puts a lot of faith in the bus system to manage it’s money well but as an example you get the point. We need conscientious people of means to martyr their time and energy in the form of becoming a new market a new activist demographic and paving a new way.

Here’s another example a little more to the point. If you increase foot traffic in certain areas, business density will increase. More businesses within walking distance of communities means more people walking to work. It’s sort of an inverse sprawl effect. Sprawl occurs in large part because undeveloped land becomes valuable when many people have to commute past it. Where along the commute they set up shop can be almost arbitrary so long as the businesses are set up in high traffic areas. But traffic is traffic and foot traffic is no different.

This is much longer than I planned but my point is this: there’s an opportunity here to encourage people to rediscover their areas… on foot, as you are. And in doing so discover the possibilities and potential for becoming or catering to a middle class pedestrian market. These literal “steps” can beat the paths for others to more easily embrace a greener, more ethical, and moreover heart-healthy daily experience without expensive cars.

Thx! Keep it up! And stay safe!!
Thomas G Henry


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