Please excuse me while I wax lyrical about the beauty of living within walking distance of anything I need in a given week. I am well aware that this is not unique to the UK, and that any New Yorker would roll their eyes at me and scoff at my enthusiasm. But in my defense, in the midwestern US this was not possible; even when I lived “downtown” in a major urban center I had to use my car to stock my pantry. (Don’t even get me started on how much I miss Target. The unitiated will never get this one, and it’s my “exception that proves the rule” about the rest of my point here.)
What is to me unique and wonderful in the UK and Europe in general is the common theme of the walking lifestyle. Quite diabolically, when I was briefly living on the east coast but outside a major urban center, before my jump “across the pond,” I had to drive one mile to work because there was no sidewalk (a.k.a. pavement) and even worse I had to drive to, and park at, the head of the hiking trail between my apartment and work (and thus 0.6 miles from my “home”) in order to go for a walk. This was not a happy time in my life.
I just returned from the grocery store, where there are baskets but no carts. Milk comes in tiny little pint containers that fit in the door of the refrigerator. You may recall, in my living quarters here there is no freezer. Good things come in small packages.
(Although this is England, and so the beer cans are larger than in the US, and the beer is stronger. You can see straight away where the priorities lie.)
My claim today is that this compact living phenomenon, perhaps associated with overcrowding and lack of car transport, does have its advantages. If it didn’t, they would not be trying to copy it in every suburban midwestern town. So America, outisde of New York and a few other outliers, let’s take a lesson from every English high street and learn to live in a walking way.