A friend recently returned from Ireland, so I may have to accept that Ireland exists, though my lack of belief in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and Omaha, Nebraska, remains strong.
She took this photograph in Kilkenny, an Irish theme town evidently based on the television documentary South Park. She thought I’d like the cargo bike in front of the shop window, and I do. In a world of machines with mild-mannered kickstands, this two-wheeler features a robust parking aid: twin steel legs that combine with the rear wheel to create the sturdiest tripod in existence. Arm the front carrier with a loaded wicker basket, push the bike forward off its legs, snap the legs into the base of the carrier and go.
But before you go, take another look at that storefront. This is human-scale architecture: tall enough to display a few of the goods sold within, wide enough to contain the proprietor and customers and sufficiently signed so that passing pedestrians and cyclists can note its existence.
In my opinion, we need more buildings designed around the aesthetic needs of residents rather than the accounting needs of shareholders. More buildings that welcome passers-by rather than yell at speeding traffic. More buildings like this one.
You don’t have to go far to see what we in the U.S. have instead; consider any big-box establishment, especially the many still-empty Circuit City and Borders stores. Or, more specific to Peoria, the monolithic backside of the Civic Center, a block-long brick wall that created yet another pedestrian desert in a city that desperately needs walkable gardens.
We know what doesn’t work, and yet we build and abandon anti-human-scale buildings every day. Maybe we should learn what people would support instead of what they seem willing to endure.
Maybe we should take a trip to Kilkenny.