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SLO's doing it wrong

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I am always amazed when I see a city decide to force its residents to walk or bike without providing any of the necessities that would make it possible to walk or bike.

It is probably difficult for most Americans to remember what cities used to be like before the cars invaded them, but I was raised in France decades ago, and I remember. Even though I lived in a poor neighborhood, everything we needed was at our fingertips. Within a 10-minute walk, we could find three grocery stores, two bakeries, one butcher shop, one seafood shop, and one general store. I walked 10 minutes to the elementary school and 15 minutes to the church, consequently I kept on walking when I attended high school, and then the university. Walking became so natural for me that I never felt the need to own a car until I lived in Wyoming. Whenever I looked for a home, my first priority was a place from where I could walk to work.

The city of San Luis Obispo wants to get people out of their cars, so they advocate developments with limited or no parking. This makes developers very happy and residents not so much, for where are the schools, the grocery stores, and everything else? They are often miles away. You may be able to walk a mile to a grocery store, but returning with bags of groceries is not so simple. Riding a bike might be easier, but not by much. And I don't know any parent willing to let their children walk a long distance to school. They drive them. Even when there is a school nearby, parents often choose to drive them elsewhere. Children who have been driven back and forth all their young lives will go on driving when they are adults.

Like everything else, walking (or biking) has to begin early, and responsible cities ought to provide what it takes to make it possible. You can't build housing developments far from food and schools and tell people: "Go ahead, walk or bike!"

Odile Ayral

San Luis Obispo


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