Next to the bicyclists vs. car driver arguments, nothing can get people cranked up around here like city slickers vs. suburbanites.
So today’s Bloomberg article might cause a fair amount of panic, declaring that the differences between the cities and suburbs are fading away. Cities are the new suburbs. And suburbs are the new cities.
To be sure, Bloomberg focuses primarily on Washington as an example, but the anecdotal evidence around the Twin Cities, where chain stores are pushing out the local charm suggest we are not immune from the suburbanization of urban America.
But it’s also true, Bloomberg says, that the urbanization of suburban America is also occuring as poverty expands outward. That may weaken the public school systems in the ‘burbs.
Commentators may be missing the new reality of convergence because so many of the intellectual elite live in a few highly distinctive major cities — New York, London or San Francisco — or in “urban adjuncts,” such as Berkeley, California, or Cambridge, Massachusetts. I see those areas as isolated outposts, not the future for most of the West. Think instead of how the urban and suburban areas of Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Orlando really don’t differ that much.
People have been debating whether the new Amazon.com Inc. headquarters should go in an urban or suburban area. There’s probably not enough room for it in a city such as crowded downtown Boston, so the very placement of the Amazon office buildings will bring along lots of housing and retail development along these new, blurry urban and suburban lines.
If you like crowded areas, and living on the internet, it will be great. And the shopping is better than ever before. But using your residential location to drive your lifestyle and mindset may be a thing of the past, and so yet another freedom of choice is slowly ebbing away.
Not to worry, however. We’ll always have bicyclists and drivers.