Merry Bedford Falls Christmas

"It’s a Wonderful Life” may not represent real life, even in its own era, but it still offers lessons about walkability and community spirit. Lessons of which we should take heed.

As I write this, it’s nearly Christmas Eve. I know that some readers here celebrate holidays other than Christmas. But I hope we can all agree that Christmas Eve is a time of relaxed enjoyment with friends and family.  Even our aging Golden Retriever seems settled in for an evening of quiet domesticity, awaiting Santa.

Given the day, I’m not going to burden you with a thousand words about density, StrongTowns, or mixed use. They’re all important subjects, but there’s a whole New Year coming up in which they’ll still be important.

Instead, I have a small homework assignment for you.  Find "It’s a Wonderful Life" in your local television listings.  It shouldn’t be hard.  But if can’t locate it, you can watch it here. If you’ve never seen the movie, you should probably watch all of it.  But if you’re like most of us and have seen it many times, just watch the last ten minutes.

And then ponder the extent to which Bedford Falls is a walkable urban setting. Sure there are cars on the streets, but much of the action is accomplished by pedestrians. George as a young man delivers drugs by on foot.  George and Mary court, not in the front seat of a car, but on a sidewalk. Uncle Billy walks to the bank with the deposit that he will soon misplace. Indeed, the most important car moment is when George has an accident.

Then think about the way the community town rallies around George in his despair, breaking open piggy banks all over town to make up the missing funds. I’m not going to suggest that Frank Capra produced realistic movies. "It’s a Wonderful Life" is fairy tale. But it’s a fairy tale that tells of a town that many of us find attractive. In our dreams, many of us want to live in Bedford Falls.

Your homework is to identify ways in which your community can be more like Bedford Falls. And I suggest that you start with walkability.

To everyone of whatever faith, have a great holiday season. And may you find your own Bedford Falls.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated. Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)


Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. He has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and three dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com. He can also be followed on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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