The future of Edmonds – and a vision | Guest View
Last updated 7/16/2020 at 11:31am
The future of cities is undeniably moving towards to a more environmentally sustainable model of operation. Cities and towns must foment a better working relationship between the natural and human environments. As part of this, our human environments should ideally also become more human-friendly.
This letter advocates for a vision of Edmonds, a vision for our community coming together in the context of a global phenomenon.
As I read the polarized opinions regarding pedestrianizing the blocks around the fountain, it is clear that there are two main perspectives – two points of view which seem rather at odds with each other. They don’t have to be. It is clear that everyone weighing in on this subject clearly loves Edmonds. Everyone wants for Edmonds to thrive. We all want our beautiful city to prosper and for it to continue to be a wonderful community in which to live and to raise our families, etc.
For those in favor of pedestrianizing the area there is the vision of the European-style piazza: a car-free-pollution-free-people-friendly-shopping-dining-pro-small-business-utopian-community-dream-zone. Cool.
For those opposed to the plan, the problem, generally, is one of individuals, who may be mobility-challenged, losing their ability (indeed, perhaps their only access) to drive their cars through our lovely town center or to park nearby. This is a real problem and should not be dismissed. Instead, we should look for ways to fix this problem by addressing the root question:
How do we meet the current and future challenges of environmental sustainability while enabling ALL people to thrive via accessibility to a lively urban core?
As is generally the case world wide, we have in Edmonds an aging population.
In the Western World as a whole, people live longer and generally in better health than before. A great achievement of modern society is the ever-increasing life expectancy of the general population. The aging of society is a positive, though challenging phenomenon. It is the culmination of successful human development.
As such, these demographic realities mandate that urban centers adapt an intergenerational view of growth and development.
First, Let us recognize and celebrate the fact that older generations are a valuable resource. We must see older citizens as precious – not just for our families but also for our communities and our economies. In order to tap the full potential of these citizens, it is vital that our communities ensure their inclusion and full access to urban spaces and services.
Q: How do we do this?
A: We work together.
The global aging of our populations calls for more age-friendly approaches to be implemented in our cities and towns. It is a challenge to prepare for these developments in such a way that both current and future generations of older people can benefit from age-friendly strategies. This requires citizens, civic leaders, and business partners to come together.
There should be a focus on promoting mobility, promoting safety and security, and empowering older people, (indeed, all people) in local communities. A truly age-friendly community is not focused on just one generation, but includes and embraces all generations.
Ideally, places to live should be organized to facilitate social interaction and foster a sense of community. A pedestrian-centric versus a car-centric town center contributes to this. As Rick Steves has noted, there are several European (and other) success stories to which we can look for examples to learn from.
In fact, today, the creation of age-friendly cities is a worldwide movement. It is argued that cities of varying sizes may be the best possible environment for older people to live and age in place. Our community built environment can contribute to social engagement for people of all ages. Community building is about stimulating the sense of belonging for everyone, regardless of how we ultimately structure the traffic flow through our downtown.
Let’s discuss the needs of all individuals. As with all civic problems, we must invite all individuals to the table. We must hear and include all voices.
Personally, I look forward to more trials of the pedestrianized zone. Let’s all give it a try. Old and new ideas and perspectives can work well in combination. There are solutions. We can find them together.
Kim Archer is an Edmonds resident.