Aging leads sometimes to surprising insights. Only two years ago, when visiting Berkeley last, I felt like a great adventurer, roaming widely over the East Bay, searching out experience after experience, never tiring of exploring new localities. This time around, it seems as if the brain has decided to slow down the pace. I do not feel that great urge anymore to venture forth into new terrain; instead, I am enjoying a daily ambling walk along the cosy little streets of South Berkeley, returning, more or less, to the same streets over and over again.
You may well ask yourself this: what is the special charm of those streets that entices your blogger to endless explorations? There is no easy answer to this, but I will make an effort nonetheless, since the answer has a bearing, more in general, on what makes a city street pleasurable to walk along. The future of the US may well depend on a good answer, since the ever increasing cost of petrol could bring about a change in people's behavior. At present, if I understand the mentality of the people around here right, you take the car as soon as the distance to cover extends to more than half a kilometer (a quarter of a mile). For me, this is just a short stroll before breakfast, to get an appetite so to speak. The more people start to walk, the more they will appreciate – and request – a pleasurable walking environment.
So what is the answer to the above riddle? I think it is best given by looking at some pictures. Consider the two views below. They have been taken last week, whilst standing on the corner of Stuart and Ellsworth Streets in South Berkeley. The left view shows Stuart Street going west; the right one Ellsworth Street going north. Now I ask you, which one would you rather use as your favorite ambling route? To get a better look, please double click on the pictures. Isn't the answer obvious? And isn't that an important message for city planners?