Friday, May 13, 2011
Why People Don't Like Suburbs
OK, a lot of us do. Bashing the ‘burbs has become so cliché it’s tiresome. And yet Men’s Health magazine ran a story outlining the problems of social isolation that truly are a part of suburban life. Just remember that this isolation is a hallmark of modern society that can be found in all built environments.
The article made me think of a talk I had couple of years ago with UCSD economist David Schkade. He’s one of those people who studies happiness; specifically, what are the things that make us happy. So why do we need a scholar to tell us that? Something called “focusing illusion” makes it hard for us mere mortals to know what we really want out of life.
I thought of Schkade when thinking of the suburbs because I recall he said one thing that makes pretty much all people unhappy are long commutes; the result of living in far-flung communities that are many miles from where we work. Maybe people who live in such places have focusing illusion.
Give a listen to the These Days interview I did with Schkade in 2008.
McMansions Are Dead
Speaking of the suburbs, Slate.com is predicting the death of the McMansion. If you don’t know (or have forgotten) what a McMansion is, it’s a tract home that’s really big; six bedrooms, three baths, that kind of thing.
Slate appears to agree with those who see the crash of the housing market being more than just a temporary glitch. It signals a fundamental change in the way we buy homes. The future, they say, is one of smaller homes, more people per home, and more apartment dwelling. Oh… and fewer McMansions.
Scooter and bike sales take off
The Motorcycle Industry Council tells us that scooters are moving fast. Sales in the first quarter of the year jumped 50 percent. Bike sales, meanwhile, increased 9 percent during the same time period.
This trend can be tied to the price of gas, which may or may not stay high. Keep in mind that oil prices are dropping.
But if gas prices do stay high, you might consider moving to Philadelphia. Philly was found to be the nation’s most bike-friendly city. Mind you, this was the finding of the the Bicycling Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, and maybe they're biased. But their report claims Philadelphia has, per capita, "twice as many bike commuters as any other large U.S. city."