Winter Haven, FL (September 12, 2022) - One difference between our modern cities and those of older European cities is that our urban planners had to account for the rising infatuation with automobiles. If you wanted people to get out of their cars you would have to create the space to leave them. And thus was born the [retail] islands in the middle of a turbulent sea of automobiles. But do you think the preoccupation has waned? Is it not the decades long movement of residential development into the urban core of our cities that proves it?
“[Cities] are not like suburbs, only denser. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of these is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers.”
― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Cars also allowed for an exponential expansion between us and an unintended diminution to our chance encounters with strangers. And those anonymous collisions are what makes a city come alive, according to Jane Jacobs. They are continual reminders that we are all human, and they bring out the best in us. They allow us to be kind, and generous, and even a bit wild, without consequence. In places where there is healthy social contact among strangers, people help each other out. There are opportunities to hold a door open for someone, or to return something dropped, or to help a person in need, precisely because there is no commitment implied. People care because they only have to for a minute.
The city brings out the best in us, and it challenges us to do better, if only for a moment.