Walkable Cities meme example.

Walkable Cities

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Updated Oct 11, 2023 at 10:44AM EDT by Zach.

Added Sep 26, 2022 at 06:11PM EDT by Brandon.

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About

Walkable Cities are a societal trend and city design concept commonly referred to in a series of memes about the foundation-level system of society that began to grow more prevalent online in the early 2020s. Typically such memes advocate for the benefits of walkable cities designed for pedestrians in mind with less emphasis placed on cars, including parking lots and roads. Though often used as a juxtaposition between European or Japanese cities and American ones, the trend has begun to grow as a larger push for a different lifestyle, particularly among social media users in the U.S. The concept has also inspired a viral debate surrounding the topic online, with those arguing for more pedestrian-friendly urban areas being perceived as naive or uninformed by some.

Origin

In 1961, the city planning and urban environmental design specialist Jane Jacobs published the book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which outlined very pro-suburban lifestyle planning policies that were pushed in the 1950s, as well as laid out what their generational impact would be, the failure to account for future hardships, and laid out a foundation for returning cities to pedestrian-led centers of civilization. A documentary series called American Masters did a small featurette on her that was reuploaded to YouTube by the channel Max Robins[1] on August 15th, 2016, where it would explain some of her core fundamental ideals and would go on to garner over 36,000 views in six years (shown below).



Though the concept of walkable cities has long had a presence online, it became a growing topic of discussion, debate and memes around April 2021 and has continued increasing into late 2022.[5] For example, on April 8th, 2021, the TikToker talkingcities[2] uploaded a TikTok in which they go over the health benefits of walkable cities, based on comments that they've seen people post describing how they felt while living in a walkable city and being able to get to the things they like better (shown below). Accounts similar to this one, with a focus on city design and city meta-narrative, began to get more popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic, when travel was restricted and a greater emphasis was placed on things that are nearby to reduce travel time and exposure.[6]


https://www.tiktok.com/embed/v2/6948884499283463430

The advocation for walkable cities continued to rise online throughout the coronavirus pandemic across multiple platforms on the internet. For example, the YouTube[7] channel Not Just Bikes uploaded a video titled, "Why City Design is Important (and Why I Hate Houston)" that discusses the concept, rapidly becoming the second-highest viewed result on YouTube when searching for "walkable cities" as of September 27th, 2022. The video, published on July 19th, 2022, has received nearly 4.7 million views in roughly 15 months (seen below).



Memes referencing the topic also became popularized alongside the rise of posts discussing walkable cities in the early 2020s. For example, on January 5th, 2022, the Facebook[8] page Green New Deal uploaded a Drakeposting meme advocating for walkable cities, receiving over 3,600 likes and 900 shares in roughly 10 months (shown below).


A electric cars high-speed public transit & walkable cities

Spread

Throughout 2022, the frequency of memes referencing walkable cities continued to trend online. For example, on April 5th, 2022, Redditor Slommee[3] posted a meme to the subreddit /r/f---cars, which was created on February 25th, 2016, with the express purpose of sharing memes and trying to espouse the planning mentality first written about by Jane Jacobs in 1961. The meme uploaded depicted the perspective of an urban regional planner talking to someone online who talks about how great other cities are, completely oblivious to the walkability component of every place they mention (shown below). The meme received over 13,300 upvotes and 400 comments in roughly six months.


Suppget "Japan is so beautiful and clean! It's like a fantasy world" "People from the Netherlands are so nice! I love Amsterdam!" "University was the best! I used to see my friends so much, why don't we run into each other anymore?" "Why don't kids play outside now? Parents used to kick their kids out of the house and tell them to be back before dark" "I love Disney World! I wonder why the parks seem so magical and inviting?" "Our town just got an infrastructure grant! Time to turn the 4-lane stroad into a 6-lane stroad!" It's because they have walkable space and public transportation It's because they have walkable space and public transportation It's because they have walkable space and public transportation It's because they had walkable space and public transportation It's because they have walkable space and public transportation *sigh*

A few months later, the term "walkable cities" would become part of a copypasta meme known as "This Kind of Smart, Walkable, Mixed-Use Urbanism Is Illegal to Build in Most American Cities," which unironically outlined and explained one of the great downfalls with walkability: zoning code structure. This zoning code issue, often unknown by those outside of the profession, was touched on by the Boardroom Suggestion meme uploaded to the /r/politicalcompassmemes subreddit by Redditor DallasBoy95[4] on April 11th, 2022, which accumulated over 8,100 upvotes and 860 comments in six months (shown below).


More Suburbs and mega highways Rent prices are through the roof. How can we lower prices? Rent control and a ban to gingerfication How about we change zoning laws so we can build higher dense buildings

Various Examples


radioheadgf Follow ... i love you walkable cities i love you pedestrian- centered infrastructure i love you bikeshares i love you free public transit i love you separated bike lanes i love you mixed-use urbanism i love you car-free streets ifunny.co shout out to all the grocery stores connected to dense housing Ralphs Ralphs 12:35 PM Mar 25, 2022 Twitter Web App 27 WHOLE FOODS MARKET 101 Retweets 30 Quote Tweets 1,940 Likes "on the elevator" L sam @sam_d_1995 - Mar 25 Replying to @sam_d_1995 "if you don't own a car, how are you going to carry your groceries home??" ifunny.co Suburbanites: "I could never live in the city, it's so loud and dirty and traffic is insane! Also suburbanites: I F------ LOVE WALKABLE CITIES I WANT TO F------ GO PLACES WITHOUT NEEDING TO DRIVE ifunny.co CARS AND CYCLISTS ARE NATURAL ENEMIES FOX OR PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AND CARS imgflip.com OR CARS AND OTHER CARS FOX LIKE PEDESTRIANS AND CARS FOX OR WALKABLE CITIES AND CARS FOX DAMN CARS, THEY RUINED EVERYTHING We need to repeal zoning laws. Mixed-use Development, Walkable cities 000 I agree. 000 Bring back the f------ steel mills next to housing.

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> Walkable Cities work best in other countries because they were made during older times when you literally needed everything to be within a certain distance of your home

This is incorrect, it's not like Europe doesn't have car dependent areas and the US doesn't have cities and towns that have or used to have a walkable "Main Street" core. The US used to be a country of rail. Most settlements were built around proximity to rail lines if they weren't built in proximity to waterways.

The primary difference is the amount of regulatory capture the Detroit automakers had in the US last century, Europe valuing "historic" areas more, and the American suburb design originating in the US, so they had a head start.

You are correct that it will take time to reverse this trend though. The Netherlands started reversing it in the 70s, it will take even longer in the US.

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