Durable Human (2 book series)

Places that Help People to be Durable

Portland Sherett Neighborhood

If you want to be more durable in body, mind and spirit, it helps if the place where you live supports your efforts. Are there sidewalks in your neighborhood? Maker faires and meetups nearby? Is it easy to be active and follow your curiosity?

The new website Urbanful made a list of “cities to watch” whose “horizons are glowing especially bright.” But, if Merriam-Webster defines durable as “staying strong and in good condition over a long period of time,” is the future looking good for their residents, too? Generally, yes.

BOSTON With its outstanding institutions of higher learning, the city is a magnet for millennials. If Bean Town is chosen for the 2024 Summer Olympics, it will surely spark a public infrastructure building boom. But the city has already proven its forward thinking by adding a new bicycle sharing system and making it possible to ride on the clean, comfortable MBTA transit system from Logan Airport to downtown absolutely free.

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder - courtesy Wikimedia Commons

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

BOULDER According to USA Today, this is among the top 10 host cities for technology startups. Brad Feld, co-founder of the start-up incubator TechStars, credits the city with a “give before you get mentality,” which “encourages a long-term dynamic.” Then there’s the terrain. A commenter on the Durable Human Facebook page says he feels like he’s “cheating” by living in Colorado since it “affords many opportunities to practice being a Durable Human.”

photo by David Hall of Crain's Detroit Business

“The Belt” photo by David Hall, Crain’s Detroit Business

DETROIT is rising from the ashes precisely because policy-makers realize the city can’t thrive unless they use creative thinking and incentives to attract people. The museum, for instance, has been placed into a charitable trust. Kids and adults are being encouraged to express themselves in alleyways that have been turned into galleries and performance spaces. You can watch “The Belt” alley transform in this report by WXYZ-TV.

SEATTLE The durability picture of the Emerald City is mixed. While Seattle attracted more new residents than anywhere else in the U.S. last year, rents soared by four times the rate of inflation. Although the place is working hard to reverse the health effects of sprawl, a very expensive snafu may get in the way. A huge tunnel-boring machine has broken down underground. Now the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood sitting above where the tunnel has been dug so far is beginning to sag. Fixing the borer is ongoing but not believed to be imminent.

Although not on the Urbanful list, The fact that PORTLAND, OREGON prides itself on being “weird” is proof that expressing your individuality is not only tolerated there, it’s encouraged. Portland’s mayor Charlie Hales actively promotes “localism.” As he said in this DH post: “We take time to feed those roots of our success, rather than just picking the fruit.” For instance, the city spends $5 million a year to support the efforts of 100-plus neighborhood and district associations, including the “Share-It Square” project pictured above.

Meanwhile, towns all over America are supporting durability in fits and starts.

Erie Art Museum photo by Brian Madden Erie Art Museum photo by Brian Madden






I recently had a chance to visit my home town of ERIE, located in northwestern Pennsylvania on the shores of Lake Erie. While its sprawling, car-dependent shopping mall on the town’s periphery appears to be faltering, the city did everything right in revamping the Erie Art Museum. Now a jewel of sustainability and smart design, it’s smack in the middle of the walkable downtown. All they have to do is get people to actually want to walk there.

What about your town? How does it help you to be more durable?

For tips on how and your kids can be more engaged, active, and durable – and to receive news about Durable Human posts, books and products – join the Durable Human email list!

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Outdoor Person

Do we ever hear good news about our cities? These examples should warm us up on cold winter days by showing us how durable our communities can become if we join with friends and neighbors to create connections.


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