Winter wonderland obliges Seattle to walk

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Prince George
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Winter wonderland obliges Seattle to walk

#1 Post by Prince George » Thu Dec 25, 2008 4:47 am

If there's one thing that Seattle is known for, it's rain. Even though it's pretty far north, being so close to the sea means that the rain doesn't freeze so we don't get anything like the snow that they do in places like Chicago. Well this year was the exception, we've now had 12 days of below or near freezing weather and several days of snow. On the weekend I pushed a ruler through the mound on the back deck - 8 inches. The most we've had before was 3 or 4.

As a result, the roads are really treacherous to drive on. They're covered in slushy icy sludge and there are some significant hills that all makes driving a non-option for the majority of people. Even public transport is affected - they're only running half the number of buses that they usually have and they are on alternate "snow" routes (avoiding steep slopes). There's some more falling right now (9:45AM), and the streets are empty even though it's the last chance to shop before christmas. The only sensible options are walking, skiing, or just staying put.

A number of local blogs are excited about this sneak peak at a world without cars and the sight of people taking to the streets to ski or toboggan or just hang out ... on-linear/ ... le-seattle ... _streets_1

This is a really interesting way to experience a city: what if your only way to get around was your own feet? Could you get to a supermarket? To a clothes or toy store? To a restaurant? To a chemist or a doctor? To work? Coming in the same year as the economy slows sharply, this has produced a clear winner: local businesses rather than malls and, in turn, the older neighbourhoods over the newer ones. The big-box stores rely on attracting people across a large area, and "residential zones" that lack shopping assume that you will always drive large distances - each of them suffer in these conditions. You can't expect online shopping to save you either: delivery services are struggling too and a lot of packages are now delayed until next week (including one of ours :) )

So this is what "walkable neighbourhoods" and "sustainable cities" are supposed to be about - maximising what people can do in their immediate area. This is a really good chance for us to see how our areas match that ideal. I wonder if this experience will 'stick', or if it will be forgotten in a week when the ice is clear? There are large areas of Seattle that fight proposals to upzone places to allow the kind of multi-story mixed-use developments that make walkability possible.

Well, the snow should change to rain later today. It won't be enough to melt all the snow and the temperatures will be freezing tonight, so we're probably going to have an icepack left for christmas. Not exactly a white christmas, but pretty interesting anyway.

Merry christmas all, and here's to better density in Adelaide in 2009!

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