Once you get to a certain age, you start quoting your parents while under the impression that you're having an original thought.
It happened to me recently, talking to a friend. "There are too many cars around; there weren't nearly as many when I was little," I said, suddenly becoming aware I'd turned into my mother.
It's true, though; there are too many cars and if we're too reliant on them, we're going to start shaping our towns for them instead of ourselves.
I was in Madison, Wisconsin, for a wedding a few years ago and was struck by how anti-pedestrian parts of it were. I was staying with a friend in a hotel and one evening, we decided to go to a Thai place a few blocks away. The area had plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants, but only if you had a car.
We walked along a grass and concrete verge (there was no pavement) to a junction with a dual carriageway lined with shops and restaurants (there was no pedestrian crossing). Feeling like motorway trespassers, we dodged our way over and finally arrived at the restaurant, set back behind a large carpark. It felt a bit like having dinner in a motorway service area. Afterwards, everyone but us left by car. ("No wonder there's an obesity crisis," we muttered as we walked home.)
Out-of-town shopping centres have mushroomed in Britain, but we are still largely a nation of pedestrians and public transport users. Most of our city streets still have pavements, but that's not to say we use them as much as we should. This week is Walk to Work week, run by the aptly named Living Street. It's an opportunity to incorporate exercise into our routine and save money on petrol or fares. Yes, walking takes longer, and you need a decent brolly, but it automatically boosts your weekly exercise quotient - and the more we use our streets, the less likely we are to lose them to the car.
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