Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Ultimate North American City

I recently got back from a week long trip to Arizona, mostly around Phoenix. We were visiting Shelley's Dad who has recently taken to spending three or four months of the winter down there, like so many other "snow birds". I can't blame them for wanting to escape Saskatchewan winters.

Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the USA. Its metropolitan area has over 4 million people sprawled over 37,000 square kilometers (16,000 square miles).

Phoenix seemed to be the ultimate North American city, the distillation of our suburban culture to its essence of cars, freeways, malls, and planned communities.

In case you're at all unclear, I don't think that's a good thing. I found it appalling. Even more disheartening is that I don't think most people see anything wrong with it. I think they think that's how it ought to be.

One day when we foolishly picked a climbing area across town we spent more time on the freeways than we did on the rock. And that wasn't even on the opposite side of the city, we just had to cut across a corner of the metro area.

Like the rest of North America, the automobile rules. If you're not in a vehicle you're screwed. The nearest coffee shop is probably 6 miles away. And even if you did feel like a two hour walk to go for coffee, you'd better be prepared to play Frogger with the traffic.

Despite a great climate for it, less than 1% of commuters use bicycles. I'm surprised anyone does.

I like the desert and the climbing was good, but I'm not going to be in a rush to go back to Phoenix.

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