Thursday, June 14, 2007

My world view is focused on the city

I know it’s not the most information heavy way to keep tabs on the world at large but I tend to only read newspapers in small chucks as I walk to work. In other words I sort of glance at the newspaper boxes and make up stories that go with their headlines. It’s made my world a lot nicer to live in, in case you were wondering.

This has sort of given me a unique world view recently. For instance, yesterday The Ottawa Sun had a cartoon image of an obese person on their cover and a headline about how the city is getting fatter. So I thought I’d do a minor experiment. Basically I people watched for the rest of my walk to work. You want to know something? There weren’t that many fat people walking to work with me.

You know where all the fat people were? Waiting in line at Tim Horton’s and getting out of their cars. So this led me to the conclusion that living in the suburbs makes you fat, not living in Ottawa. And I’m pretty sure I’m right. Living downtown promotes a healthier lifestyle in many ways – it’s easier to walk to the store and get milk than it is to drive down interminable one-way streets, and you’re not required to drive to a store that is kilometers away from your house to begin with.

Seriously, this isn’t rocket science. If you want the city to get healthier, in all respects, then it needs to be not economically viable to expand suburbs. If we want city spending to be cost effective for the services they provide then they need to work on serious urban renewal. It needs to be not attractive and desirable to live downtown, which I think it already is, it needs to be completely unaffordable to live outside the city. This city can be great if it’s simply too expensive to expand it or to live that much further outside of it. Plus, you’ll feel better for walking everywhere instead of driving.

I don’t think waiting for some amorphous oil crisis will end suburbs but immediate and heavy taxation will certainly curtail their spread and increase the vibrancy of the city core. It makes sense.


Umar said...

Hey Jon,

According to this article by Matthew Turner et al., the chicken and egg have been mixed up. It's not that living in suburbs makes you fat; it's that people with a tendency towards sedentariness (and hence, fatness) gravitate towards suburbia.

On the other hand, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons agree with your assessment, or at least did in 2005 - before the Turner article came out.

I've thought about this a lot. Trying to get some other reasons to eliminate sprawl...

joncormier said...

I remeber either seeing on television or hearing on radio, or possibly reading online (hey, it was at minimum a year ago I came across this) that you reduce your life expectancy for every additional half hour you spend in a car for your daily commute, but you increase it for every ten minutes you walk to work.