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A Fresh Look at American Sprawl

only one Concrete, WA, but concrete and asphalt are the welcome mats for
towns across America. Image: Gord McKenna/Flickr.

advocates for livable streets know that our addiction to the automobile
is almost without peer. We know that we've given our land to driving
lanes and parking lots and our air to exhaust fumes. Nevertheless, it
can be hard to step outside of the car culture we've spent our lives
marinating in and see the country with a new perspective.

That's why this letter we received from two British tourists is so
refreshing. It's both a stark admonishment of how much we've given up
for the car, sometimes barely noticing it, and a heartening reminder
that what often seems normal to us need not be: 

We are visitors to the States from England. Our main reason forcoming was to visit friends, however upon researching into transportoptions we were horrified to discover that the only viable option to get from NY to LA via many small towns was by car. Many of our friends have tried to justify this saying that 'America is simply too big to havepublic transport'. To us, this is purely INSANE. Surely a huge countryshould offer the best public transport in the world! Bullet trains could cover the driving distances in no time.

We are feeling quite ashamed of ourselves as we write this butinevitably we did end up driving across America. We have found theAmerican people to be welcoming and friendly and the landscape beautiful but we have not yet seen a single 'town' in the US that we, asEuropeans would class as a town. I would class them more as motorwayservice stations. Buildings designed for cars. People waiting in linefor a drive through. People competing for car parking spaces at gyms!These are not communities as we would recognise - market squares, parks, rivers, cafes, stations, public art, gardens etc. 'Towns' are simplynot towns! We feel saddened that many Americans are not afforded thecommunity lifestyle that we enjoy in Europe.

Our purpose of writing is not to attack your country and we doapologise if we have offended. I am writing to urge you, beg with you,plead with you to keep up the fantastic work that you are doing. Despite the wonderful time that we have had in the US I simply cannot wait toget home in order to walk from my flat and pick up a newspaper and apint of milk, on my journey I shall say hello to everyone I meet, takenote of the weather and breathe some fresh air.

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