Kaid Benfield Archive


The night the 'burbs come to town (reprise)

Kaid Benfield

Posted October 29, 2010 at 1:32PM

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  Halloween in Clarksville (by: Emmanuelle Bourgue, creative commons license)

This weekend brings Halloween, a big event in our neighborhood.

We are lucky to live in a walkable neighborhood in a relatively quiet, residential part of Washington.   (Walk Score 80, “very walkable”; Transit Score 76, “excellent.”)  There are quite a few things that make it accessible to walkers.  For example, although the houses are not particularly small, they are on modestly sized lots, convenient to each other.  They are convenient to the street, too:  front doors are relatively close to the sidewalks.  And, yes, by the way, we have sidewalks, far from a given in the world of today's newer neighborhoods.  The block sizes are small, and we have alleys, too.  There is connectivity in every direction.  The intersections have stop signs. 

The residents, by and large, are a convivial lot.  And we have a fair number of kids in the neighborhood.

  Kaid's neighborhood (c2008 FK Benfield)

These things make it perfect for trick-or-treating.

In Washington, it is easy to tell the city cars from the suburban cars, because they have different license plates.  City dwellers have DC tags, while suburbanites usually have tags from Virginia or Maryland.  I expect to see a lot of the latter in the neighborhood Sunday night.

That's because, in many cases, their neighborhoods are not walkable.  Now, it's not the residents' fault - people choose to live in suburbs for all sorts of understandable reasons.  But so many have been built without much attention to walking.  Driveways are longer - in some cases much longer - and may require traversing dark areas.  (In our neighborhood, many people park on the street, and those who use off-street garages or spaces access them from the alleys.)  trick or treat (by: Jennifer Gansch, creative commons license)There may be no sidewalks at all.  Or, in what I have never quite understood, they may have a sidewalk, but only on one side of the street.  Lot sizes and block sizes are larger, meaning the kids’ treat-to-distance ratio goes way down.  Some of these developments are just not the best places for your kids to go trick-or-treating, if you consider walking door-to-door to be part of the experience.

Happily, there are exceptions, especially in closer-in suburbs.  But it’s not the rule.

So Sunday night suburban parents will drive their kids to neighborhoods like ours and send them around to knock on our doors.  (That’s exactly what my brother-in-law does, driving his kids each year to the nearest walkable neighborhood, about five miles away in his case.)  I'm tempted to give the interlopers lumps of coal, but there's no way we're going to take it out on the kids.  Maybe some of them will even like the differences, and tell their parents.

And, besides, I have a better idea.  How about, one day next spring, we round up all the kids in our neighborhood, pick an appropriate suburban subdivision, and go play ball on the suburbanites' large yards?  Now that might be fun.

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Today's entry is adapted (and improved!) from an earlier post I published in 2007.