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April 30, 2011


Here's something strange to do in Salem: walk.

My daughter lives within a 15 minute walk of where Liberty and Commercial split at the intersection with Fairview. Lifesource is a couple of blocks away, Roth's right there (I hear that the Safeway there has closed), nearby are Great Harvest, a drugstore, party goods store, Kinkos, restaurants (yes, including a Subway), a pretty little park and bus stops. Fred Meyer is a little farther away but still in walking distance. When I visit her, I bike some (have biked to or past the Trader Joe's location many times) but very often I walk for the exercise and I walk to do errands. Usually I only see one or two other people walking. My daughter says she feels uneasy and exposed when she walks in her neighborhood. I find that sad. (Walk Score 69 Somewhat Walkable*)

Where I live now, within 15 minutes or less in one direction or another, I can walk to Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, two regular supermarkets, several drugstores, pet stores, convenience stores, ethnic markets, a bread store, liquor stores and a wine shop, a bookstore, two public library branches, Tai Chi, yoga and dance studies, gyms, schools, two post office branches, many street corner mailboxes, a movie theater, bus and streetcar stops, several bank branches, three parks, a wide variety of stores, and too many pubs and restaurants to count. (Yes, one of them is a Subway, but you have not encountered ubiquity until you have encountered Dunkin' Donuts - according to the store locator on the company website there are 50 within 5 miles of my zip code 02445. Starbucks coffee vs Dunkin' Donuts coffee is a local variant on the culture wars - but when in the mood for a cappuccino, I go to Peet's or the Greek bakery around the corner.)

This high Walk Score of 91 Walker's Paradise* is a function of density and diversity that has developed over a long period of time. It doesn't happen overnight, but many people think that dense, mixed-use, transit-oriented, walkable, bikeable neighborhoods, are the way of the future, one way to reduce carbon emissions and reduce oil dependency. One way to reduce sprawl and preserve wilderness, greenspace and agriculture beyond the city limits. One way to build vibrant, diverse, creative, stimulating, strange and interesting communities.

*Walk Score: http://www.walkscore.com/

Laurie, a belated reply to your interesting comment. (I guess I slowly strolled to it.)

Thanks for the WalkScore link. I plugged in my address and got a 6 out of 100. Of course, we're six miles from the Salem city limits, so that isn't surprising. Like the site said, we truly are car-dependent.

If you end up living in the south Salem area you described, know that Venti's (one of my favorite restaurants/pubs) is opening a south Salem location between Roths and LifeSource. That adds another appealing walkable destination. (It'll be near French Press, a favorite of mine also.)

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