Is loitering always a bad thing?

As we look for ways to make our cities, towns and villages more livable, should we re-examine our thoughts and laws about loitering?

In an interesting article at the Atlantic Cities website, author Emily Badger takes a look at how cities have evolved. Many towns and cities discourage people from hanging out, sitting, lingering. But that is what makes a city vibrant.

As Badger states, “It’s hard to remember how we got here, to criminalizing a leisurely pursuit that’s embraced on most European streets. But the cycle went something like this: Residents moved out of cities and stopped using their public spaces and streets. The only people still walking them were deemed riffraff: the homeless, jobless and, officials feared, gang members and prostitutes.

And so cities took away the benches (or made them un-sittable) and put up signs warning of anti-loitering fines. We went to great lengths to discourage the wrong people from hanging around, but this of course discouraged everyone else as well.”

We wonder why people don’t want to come downtown. We’ve not only discouraged the “riffraff” but we have discouraged everyone else.

New benches in downtown Cortland? More outside seating at restaurants? Shops staying open later? We need to give people a reason to linger.

Jan

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