Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What is crowded?

I had an enlightening conversation with a coworker recently. We were discussing my interest in moving to Uptown. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "I want to move to Uptown! There's lots of energy and diversity and great food and public life!"

Coworker: "Ugh! Why would you want to live there? It's so crowded!"

This got me thinking about what a person means when he says a place is "crowded". In this case, "crowded" is actually a code word for an entirely different worldview. A worldview, I might add, that is decidedly non-urban in orientation.

First, let's back up a bit. Is Uptown really crowded? Is it!?!? If you think Uptown is crowded, go visit NYC's Chinatown on a Saturday afternoon. That is crowded. In NYC, I've been on a sidewalk completely suffused with human beings, fighting my way through the crowds. Crowded is World Cup 1998 Finale on the Champs Elysees, when 1.5 million people flooded the one-mile stretch of road. I was there. Believe you me, that is crowded.

Don't get me wrong--Uptown is a busy, happening place! There are indeed a lot of people there, especially on Friday & Saturday nights. And certainly on festival days there are big-time crowds.

But let's get back to me and my coworker and our respective perspectives on urban life: for me, I associate many positive things with high population density: lots of restaurants, a rich variety of human beings, easy access to mass transit, public life (read more of my previous posts if you want). My coworker, however, associates negative things with high population density: lack of privacy, noise, lower air quality (because of car exhaust), physical danger & crime, lack of space.

Why is it that we have totally different visions of the same space? Am I missing something? Am I failing to sell urban-ness to the suburban set?


Blogger Arthur Willoughby said...

I wouldn't call Uptown crowded...but I would call it congested.

I find it ironic that in a part of town where "progressive" is the name of the game, it's bumper-to-bumper, smoke-belching cars from I-94 to Lake Street. Everyone has to drive to the bar...the coffee shop...the beach...everywhere!

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

Crowded? I guess I call that energy. As far as transportation, is the congestion from those passing through or from locals? Every time I go through Uptown, there's lots of foot traffic in addition to the cars. The cars seem to be coming from elsewhere and going elsewhere as well! That's one of the maladies of not having very good east west routes through the south side of town.

3:17 AM  

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