This beautiful scene in central Phoenix is from 1917. It makes you want to step into the picture and stroll. Not bad for a small, isolated city in a brand new state. More about that later. Alas, today the same location is a blighted vacant lot south of two once-graceful houses that have been turned into the Old Spaghetti Factory, the lawns replaced by asphalt.
I write because of an article in one of the online nooks of Fast Company headlined, "Phoenix is Pulling Off an Urban Miracle: Transforming into a Walkable City." Read and decide for yourself. On Facebook, someone said it came off like a press release. The kindest interpretation is that it represents an aspiration. To make it real, a little history might help.
Although Phoenix's growth is closely connected to the automobile age, the city was actually once highly walkable.
Let's define our terms. By "walkable," I don't mean you can drive your car to a canal bank or a desert "preserve" and hike. Not even the enchantingly shady, last time I checked, Murphy's Bridle Path. I mean the arrangements I enjoy in Seattle, where almost everything — shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, culture, health care, transportation hubs — is a quick walk or bus/bike ride away. One doesn't need a car.
Prior to the mid-1950s, when sprawl took off and never looked back, Phoenix offered such a "lifestyle." For anyone who grew up in the actual town prior to World War II, it was taken for granted.