Charlotte is something of an interesting place. I’d argue that its more of an enlarged town or suburb than it is a city – but do know that I’m biased since I’m from Philly and Philly started off as a city. So, there are characteristics and mannerisms to city life that are a product of that, but things you can’t just graft onto enlarged-towns.
For example, bike lanes and corner stores. Cities are weird in that they can support bike lane development – if done right. Now, because of the conjested nature of cities, there’s always a lot of pushback in doing these (see what’s happening in DC right now), but its pretty easy. And since most things that you need are within (long) walking distances, it only makes sense that biking there would also help traffic matters.
Speaking of right there, the corner store. You know, that less than a 5-10min walk to a store that has the bare essentials, that has the owner who knew you since you were knee0high and doesn’t look like they’ve grown older one bit, and has adjusted to the world and families changing around them by being the same? Yea. That corner store. Those are staples – if not for a small snack, for a small conversation that would lead to other adventures. And yes, some corners have dubious participants, but you can’t say that there’s not some kind of life there that’s just not duplicated anywhere else.
Many aspects of Charlotte miss these. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a few neighborhoods within walking distance of small shops or even strip malls. And there are bike lanes – with more in the planning stages all the time. But its not the same, the city is designed to spread people more than it is to pull them together. Events and green-spaces are used to bring people together – and that works, to a degree.
One of the things that I’ve noticed here is that bikers are friendly to one another. Either we wave at one another in passing, or at a coffeeshop the bikes are a means to a conversation. Those moments are most like that city feel, but without the baggage of the hustle and bustle of city life. If anything, I’ve noticed that when I get into large city areas, I’m looking for those quiet spaces, and then connect out from them. Or, as would be the case in Philly, I’m imaginging myself on the bike lanes going around Fairmont Park, not worrying about dodging cars, and knowing that there are rest stations to connect with water and maybe a convo along the way.
I guess that its more of a me evolving thing than it is the cities around me. The environments place certain limitations and opportunities towards how to live and understand life around you. You just have to be willing to take what you see and create something good from it.
I think I’ll bike a bit today once teh bulk of my work is done. And I’ll find a coffeeshop and just connect with people and the city that I now call home. That’s the lesson embedded into me from where I came from, and the life that I can live at each corner from here on.