Our Urban Challenge: The Euro Thing

Want to see a sneer of disgust cross the face of your average, suburban Springfieldian? Just mention anything European.

I’ve been accused — in public meetings even — of wanting to force Americans to live like Europeans. And “like Europeans” is always spoken in derision by the folks who accuse me.

Well, their accusations are correct in one sense: I do think we have a lot to learn from Europe about land use, transportation, and making urban life enjoyable. But I do not want to force anyone to do anything (economic and environmental circumstances will take care of that soon enough). What I want to do is make sure people have choices: where to live, how to live, and how to get around. Right now our choices are severely limited by our car-centric culture.

In the link above you can read about how Portland, Oregon is getting into a Euro-like groove with coffee houses and pubs that are beginning to spill into the streets.

We’re doing that here. Just look around downtown. Check out the new Bistro Market. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you may be the only one left in town who hasn’t. The place is P O P U L A R. And people are spilling onto the sidewalks along the side of the building where they have a few tables and chairs — even in this brutal heat.

Why?

Because a vibrant street life is what people want. Just take a look at the other downtown venues that offer street seating. We need more of this. We need more of this closer together, i.e. around the entire perimeter of  The Square and along the intersecting streets.

Vibrant street life is what people want. Just be sure not to call it European :-)

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Comments 4

  1. robert wrote:

    I love this post! I agree that it is a great way to turn people off. It’s easy to want to tell people that if they want to live in a more European setting that there are planes headed that direction every few minutes.

    Posted 31 Aug 2010 at 11:13 am
  2. Ty wrote:

    I definitely agree about downtown needing more outdoor seating. I wish the city or whoever would’ve put a few benches and tables in the corner of the square by the library instead of those giant empty planters/trashcans. It seems like downtown restaurants are starting to figure this out though, which is good.

    Also found an article about walking around Philly that carbon trace readers might like:
    http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2010/08/pedestrian-diarist-life-without-cars/

    Posted 31 Aug 2010 at 1:42 pm
  3. Miriam wrote:

    We look for excuses to go to bistro market – I would support many more businesses like this with my consumer dollar!! Wish someone would work on making the square more of an attraction rather than an eyesore as well.

    Posted 06 Sep 2010 at 10:13 am
  4. Andy Cline wrote:

    Miriam… The renovation of the interior of The Square is set to begin soon. Stay tuned here for some details. Plus, with the Heers project looking more like a reality, I think we’re going to add greatly to the downtown experience.

    Posted 06 Sep 2010 at 2:21 pm