FYI, I arrived in Palo Alto, California yesterday for an event today organized by the Hewlitt Foundation about evaluating the efficacy of political advocacy. Every trip I ever take to this state is a time to become frustrated anew that the bulk of America’s walkable urbanism exists in the horrible-weather locales of the Northeast or else the even-worse-weather locale of Chicago. Head west to California and the climate is lovely — tons of great places to walk around — but the built environment is inhospitable to such endeavors. It’s a huge shame. If you took Boston and relocated it to somewhere in California, it would possibly be the greatest place on earth. Instead it’s Boston.
Meanwhile, the part of Palo Alto where I’m staying is a reminder that there’s more to walkable urbanism than sidewalks or even a modest degree of retail density. For example, it’s quite hard to cross the street around here. Intersections are few and far between, the roads are very wide, and the crossing period is quite short. And walking around a bit you swiftly see the path dependence. The traffic light schemes could be arranged to be more convenient for pedestrians, but why would you do that with so few pedestrians around? But given that the traffic lights and everything else are inhospitable to pedestrians, why would you walk? Well, you might walk because the Hewlitt Foundation put you up in a hotel but you don’t have a rental car. Otherwise, however….