Monday, April 18, 2011

How Big is a Neighborhood?

Part of my regular routine is taking a four and a half mile walk beginning and ending in my neighborhood. I do this primarily because I’ve been told that if I don’t, I’ll likely die sooner rather later. That works for me.


I used to go for a run though the neighborhoods surrounding my home. I don’t recall paying much attention to these neighborhoods I ran through. I never really enjoy running, my thoughts were most often focused on just finishing.

Walking is different though. Even at a brisk pace I still find myself paying closer attention to my surroundings. After three months of walking the same route, I’ve become more attuned to what constitutes a neighborhood. So far I’ve determined that my Ellicott City hike takes me through at least six other neighborhoods besides my own. I say at least because I suspect that the larger neighborhoods have sub neighborhoods, like a cul-de-sac subset.

Some boundaries are easily defined. As I leave the street I live on I cross into an age restricted community. This is clearly a different neighborhood than mine. It contains about 50 homes and though I've met a few people who live in this neighborhood, I’ve never been in any of their houses.

Geographical features can play a role in defining a neighborhood too. Power transmission lines cut a wide swath through part of my trek. I suspect in some parts this no mans land separates one neighborhood from another.

Other neighborhoods take a little longer to define. The age of the housing stock helps with that somewhat. In parts of my walk the housing stock is around twenty years old, in others it’s over forty. That creates a psychological boundary between the new people and the old people. Even if new people move into the old people section they usually get assimilated in the old people neighborhood. A neighborhood, after all, is all about proximity.

But how far does proximity stretch?

In the cities, neighborhoods are compact, made up of a few blocks. In the suburbs, neighborhoods like the old people section can easily cover a square mile and include only about forty homes. On the other hand, the age restricted community has the same number of home in less than a quarter mile.

Which is the dominant factor?

Is it the number of people or the distance apart?

Having grown up in Columbia I once thought I knew. Jim Rouse told me what a neighborhood was. Outside of Columbia, I’m not so sure.
blog comments powered by Disqus