I’m not surprised that there are no footpaths near my hotel in Detroit. This is a city still clinging, however improbably, to the notion that manufacturing cars is the only road to economic salvation. Why encourage people to walk?
Actually, this is not an uncommon phenomenon in the US: finding yourself in a hotel where there’s essentially no way of leaving unless you’re in a vehicle. Add in the fact that I’m in Dearborn, near Ford’s Detroit HQ — every second building is the Henry Ford something-or-other, and I’m here to check out Ford’s design facilities — and I should perhaps be grateful the roads aren’t fenced off with barbed wire.
Not being able to walk isn’t an issue in my favourite US cities (San Francisco, Boston, New York, even Vegas), but you can’t keep going back to the same old places. Even though my principle aim today in visiting the Fairlane Town Center is something I’ve done several times before: heading to Macy’s and buying some cheap-by-Australian-standards Levis.
So while the mall is right opposite my hotel in Dearborn, no-one seems to have considered that visitors might want to stroll on over and spend some money. I have to wander through a half-empty car park, up a grass verge, across a four-lane road and through another two empty car parks to get to the stores. The traffic on a Sunday makes this feasible, but I suspect it would be impossible during rush hour.
The mall itself is bleak and largely empty, which I attribute partly to the early hour and partly to the depressed state of US retail in general and the Detroit economy in particular. The cheapest Levis turn out to be in JCPenney rather than Macy’s, but with that chore done there’s nothing that keeps me wanting to shop.
But at least I’m allowed to shop whenever I want. While grabbing some lunch in the food court (cheaper than hotel room service), I’m struck by the huge sign and leaflets promoting the ‘Adult Supervision Policy’ at the mall:
This actually turns out to be an anti-teenager policy: if you’re under 18, you’re not allowed in the mall after 5pm at night unless you’re accompanied by an adult. Apparently, before this policy was put in, the place was filled with gangs of marauding teenagers and sales suffered. What I’m wondering is: how did the teenagers who didn’t have cars ever get here in the first place?