When bridges aren’t bridges.

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Some thoughts excerpted from the introduction of a paper I wrote for school, relevant to bridges…

Urban neighborhoods such as the one under consideration represent a tremendous amount of preexisting public and private investment that goes largely underutilized in favor of continued sprawl. Our post World War II abandonment of traditional city centers has left us struggling environmentally, financially, and culturally as we become more and more isolated from each other as people and bear the burden of our land use decisions, including the loss of ability to participate in interactive civic affairs, alone or in groups small enough to not have sufficient power to initiate change.

Additionally, the suburbanization process has gone on for so long that we’ve come to view it as traditional while what’s actually traditional–walkable, human scaled clusters that provide better access to public and private opportunities for people of all socioeconomic levels–have been relegated to residual status in the dominant public mind-set. It’s this mind-set that represents a cultural situation in need of intervention, as quantitative information pertaining to environmental and financial consequences, when presented absent of cultural context, has been unsuccessful in penetrating the mainstream consumer psyche.

Many previous attempts to economically redevelop urban areas have led to dual economies, one’s in which people from outside the city or neighborhood travel to and from jobs in it that are out of reach to the residents actually living there owing primarily to lack of education. This further disconnects those residents from their own community while necessitating the expansion of transportation and other infrastructure and the public expenditure required to build and maintain it.

Urban residents then are expected to spend generations paying for public infrastructure that has little if any positive effect on their lives but that further robs them of opportunities for investment in themselves and their families. In many ways, they subsidize their own demise. When they are finally unable to keep paying as a result of doing so, the dominant, suburban culture is asked to subsidize them on an individual, subsistence level. This contrived mechanism of systematic disinvestment is then cemented into the dominant public view as urban neighborhoods become further seen as places where individual success is not possible, full of people who cannot manage their own affairs. Avoidance of such places becomes rational and the disinvestment cycle continues at a faster pace as economic and political power concentrate on the more expensive to maintain fringes of municipalities rather than in the center.

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