The myth of “getting away from it all”

Pax Arcana

Many of us see vacations as an escape from our hectic lives — a chance to flee from civilization and take pleasure in the simple life, if only for a week or two.

Then why do so many of us choose to flee our comfortable suburban lives for more densely-packed areas?

That’s a question that bugs urban planners, as they seek to convince the exurb-dwelling populace that despite their worst fears of back-alley stabbings and doo-wop singing, greater density can actually improve your quality of life. This article in Next American City illustrates the conundrum with a closer look at the most bestest place on earth, the Jersey Shore:

Every block has a sidewalk used for short walks to shops, schools, churches, and of course the ocean.  If the walk is too far there are trolleybuses, provided at low cost as a quasi-public transportation amenity. Single-family homes sit snugly next to each other or next to townhomes, which often sit close to lowrise hotels. Sandwich shops without dedicated parking spaces are full of patrons all day. Most homes have porches and families wind down the day by sitting in them and waving to anyone who walks by. Nearby Cape May was America’s first seaside resort town, and is now an international destination where the most treasured homes and restaurants front the busy sidewalks. Front yards are small and side yards even smaller, yet nobody seems to mind. Each of these features is part of a good planner’s urban design “toolkit,” and they help increase quality of life and set the stage for neighborly interaction (even among “shoobies,” or daytrippers.) They are things that planners struggle to convince towns to allow, yet are often denied by citizen groups who protest, citing concerns including…reduced quality of life.

There is a lot of truth to this. When the extended Pax Familias ventures to Long Beach Island every summer, one of the biggest draws is that our cars sit mostly idle in the driveway while we walk to the beach, the coffee shop, or the ice cream place. For longer trips, however, there is always the patented Pax Arcana human catapult-o-tron. Didn’t I tell you about that?

During the Summer, Opponents of Density Go on Vacation [Next American City]


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