This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
I’ve recently travelled to Croatia, and wanted to share the most wonderful part of my travels with Orphan Road: walkable cities. Not all of the cities and towns I visited were walkable, but a large portion had at least a walkable downtown area. This downtown area, without exception, was car-free.
Without exception, these walkable areas were the most enjoyable areas of a city and most of the locals didn’t seem to even own cars. Outside of these walkable areas there was much sprawl and traffic, as we experience here. Inside the walkable area were restaurants, small grocery stores, and shops on main roads and very high density housing on minor roads and above the shops. The furthest you’d ever need to walk on a daily basis is around 10 minutes away. Train and ferry stations generally land in or near this part of town, allowing the residents to travel throughout Europe quickly and easily. I sat in the Dubrovnik town square with a few thousand Croatians cheering together for their soccer team, projected on a screen next to an ancient clock tower.
How did the Croatians tackle the tough decisions to make these cities so enjoyable? They didn’t. Every one of these areas were built by the Romans. Dubrovnik, Rovinj, Split, Korcula, Hvar, (etc.) started out as Roman palaces, were built out further as medieval castles, and were inherited by modern times as car-free centers simply because cars won’t fit in the narrow streets.
Can we re-invent these cities here? Can you imagine Pike’s market without the line of cars through the middle? Dense areas with lively streets an easy walk from transit? Maybe even a small dense car-free area at the Beacon Hill Link station? I think it’s worth a try.