Are political conservatives allergic to walkable neighborhoods? Rod asks:
Do you see it where you live? Where does this come from? Is it that people associate biking and public transportation in general with cities, and therefore, among conservatives, as something to be suspicious of, or looked down upon? Living in Washington and New York City, I got used to walking, and came to like doing it a lot. But I rarely walked for pleasure; I walked because I needed to use the sidewalks to get to work or to the shops. Walking was not something you did mostly for leisure, but because it was part of life. I don’t actually like walking for leisure. Anyway, what’s the cultural angle here? Anybody?
I suspect there are a few reasons for this. For one thing, today’s self-identified conservatives tend to be concentrated most in suburban and rural areas, and they have become accustomed to driving rather than walking/biking/riding trains because the nature of transportation in these areas is skewed heavily towards travel by automobile. My parish is in the Chicago suburbs, and I just spent a lot of time driving back and forth to Holy Week services because driving is the only practical way to get to the church, especially at some of the late hours when these services are taking place. Taking the train to and from the suburbs is practical only if you have a car waiting for when you arrive in suburbs.
Of course, that could change if conservatives strongly preferred and were willing to pay for better public transportation and support the sort of zoning rules and planning that would create walkable neighborhoods. So there is probably more to it than an accident of circumstances or geography. Speaking for myself, I grew up in a medium-sized, sprawling city (Albuquerque) with a relatively poor public transportation system, so it never occurred to me to rely on public transportation to get around town. If I needed to go to Santa Fe, as I often did when I was at home in the 2000s, there was the possibility of taking the subsidized “Railrunner” train to the capital, but it was not at all convenient for getting to the part of Santa Fe where I was going. While living in Chicago, specifically Hyde Park, I have been able to walk around the neighborhood easily enough (as Rod said of his experiences, this is more of a necessity than a preference), but before I arrived here I became so used to driving wherever I went that it is not a regular habit to travel anywhere in the city except by car. Even though there is a regular bus route that goes downtown from here and parking downtown is quite expensive, I have very rarely taken it. This habit is reinforced by the fact that I tend to go to the suburbs much more often than I go to other parts of the city. What makes this really perverse is that I deeply dislike driving and would be thrilled not to have to drive as much as I do.
There are probably many other reasons for this tendency I’m not considering here. Still, if I had to guess, I would say that the main reason political conservatives are concentrated in unwalkable areas is that this is the kind of place they grew up in, they became used to it, and they have been recreating the same kinds of places wherever they live out of force of habit.