I was standing in an enormous parking lot in Folsom, California. I had a speaking engagement at the REI located at the Folsom Gateway shopping center.
A real estate website states, “Folsom Gateway II is one of Northern California’s premiere regional shopping centers.” And later offers this highlight, “Highly visible, prime retail location on the Highway 50 Freeway, viewed by 200,000 vehicles daily.”
Notice how the above description gives vehicles the gift of sight.
And that is appropriate. Because cars, not people, appear to have been the focus of this development.
Cars get the prime real estate. The entire middle of the complex–big box stores on one end of the parking lot–fast food and chain restaurants on the other. The distance between the retail and food is so great, that people get in their cars and drive across the parking lot from one to the other.
The shopping complex has followed building code, I’m sure. There are sidewalks and bike lanes and even a few little benches for people to sit. But they were all empty. The scale is so huge, so spread out, that humans find it daunting.
Does anyone really want to walk the mile and a half along the edge of the big box buildings to the Starbucks? (It’s much closer in your car).
If someone was to consider walking, the intersections are so wide that I imagined rest stations halfway across with water and snacks to prepare pedestrians for the second half of their journey.
The parking lots are clean, with lovely new banners that one would find at the entrance of a Renaissance or County Fair. But no jugglers, musicians or food booths await your arrival. In reality, the banners just dress up a an ugly, ocean of asphalt.
Premiere? Is this the best we can do?
If our goal is to increase the rates of obesity and diabetes. If we want to encourage people to stay in their cars. To walk less. To spend as little time outdoors as possible. Then this truly is a premiere example of how we should move forward.