Rappin' Pedestrian Pete takes on Houston
Making Houston more walkable is a tall task for anybody, but former council member Peter Brown brings a unique style to the job.
Brown, who is the founder of BetterHouston, calls his alter ego Pedestrian Pete, who "walks the city of Houston looking for missed opportunities and great examples of walkable urbanism, and then reports back on what he discovers."
Pete's medium is short videos, some of which are punctuated with rap. Some samples:
We're going to show you how the city comes alive when you refuse to drive and use your feet.
Car keys should be left at home — on bike or foot is the way to roam. The use of city streets with all their delights — crowded parks and sidewalks are inspiring sights.
There's a dearth of pedestrian advocates on the web, and few who are as well dressed as Pete, with his hat and tie. Moreover, the setting in Houston is challenging. In his National Walking Day video, Pete extols the delights of walking on a street that is far from delightful, with a chain-link-fence on one side, and fast-moving cars on the other.
You have to admire Pete's gumption.
But the tide may be turning in Pete's favor. Alan Ehrenhalt's new book, The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City, includes a chapter on Houston. Here's a quote:
What's striking is how many residents of the area say they want to live some form of urbanized existence. In a survey conducted early in 2010 by the Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research, 41 percent of the750 respondents, including those currently well outside the 610 perimeter, said they would like to move to "a smaller home in a more urbanized area, within walking distance of shops and workplaces. ... Forty-one percent of two million is a little more than eight hundred thousand people. What seems equally important in this survey is the comparison over time, especially among Anglos. In 1999, some 46 percent of Anglo city dwellers expressed a desire to move to the suburbs, while only 28 percent of suburbanites said they would like to move to the city. Today, those figures have evened out. Twenty-five percent of those in the city want to goto the suburbs; 23 percent of the suburbanites expressed a desire for urbanized living. Given the increasing appeal of an urban-centered life, freed from the long commutes and the auto dependency of a home far out on the periphery, it seems possible that those figures will shift further toward the center of the city in the years ahead.
Pete may turn around one day and find a crowd walking behind him on the way to a more pedestrian-friendly Houston.
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