In the American city, the typical American city — the typical American city is not Washington, DC, or New York, or San Francisco; it’s Grand Rapids or Cedar Rapids or Memphis — in the typical American city in which most people own cars and the temptation is to drive them all the time, if you’re going to get them to walk, then you have to offer a walk that’s as good as a drive or better. What does that mean? It means you need to offer four things simultaneously: there needs to be a proper reason to walk, the walk has to be safe and feel safe, the walk has to be comfortable and the walk has to be interesting. You need to do all four of these things simultaneously, and that’s the structure of my talk today, to take you through each of those.
I picked up an envelope that had to be hand-delivered and stalked out of the building. I was in one of thoses moods where you are so frustrated you forget where you are for long stretches of time, carrying on imaginary conversations in which you try so hard to defend or explain yourself that you even start talking out loud without realizing it. I was doing exactly that when I heard a quiet, firm voice say, “That’s a poor walk, young man.”
I stopped in my tracks. Was it in my head or did somebody actually talk to me? I turned around and saw an extremely old man wearing a black felt hat, a full-length black wool coat and black shoes polished to a mirror finish. He was standing in front of the library as if waiting for someone to pick him up. He stood ramrod-straight had his gaze fixed directly in front of him.
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