Sidewalks making better cities?

One thing I don’t get (yet) in Emergence: Johnson writes (quoting Jane Jacob’s The Life and Death of Great American Cities; a book that I want to read) that sidewalks are essential: “better sidewalks make better cities, which in turn improve the lives of the city dwellers”.

Earlier in the book, he wrote about how Manchester grew very fast during the industrial revolution, without any planning at all, resulting in a commercial district emerging and the workers being segregated by automation. “The city has built a cordon sanitaire to separate the industrialists from the squalor they have unleashed on the world, concealing the demoralization of Manchester’s working-class districts – and yet that disappearing act comes into the world without “conscious explicit intention”” (quoting Friedrich Engels). Is this a better city?

Jane Jacobs writes about how the “constant succession of eyes” makes the sidewalk and the neighborhoods a safer place. This would be a better city, of course. And being able to go to a particular part of town where shops of the same kind has emerged might of course be convenient. But I’m not sure yet about in what ways the cities become better.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on September 4, 2002. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.


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