Urban Planning

When Cities Treated Cars as Dangerous Intruders : urbanplanning

Recently my fiancee and I went to a Dairy Queen in the USA for ice cream. The DQ we went to was on the side of a 5-lane stroad. It was surrounded by a massive blacktop parking lot. In mid-July, this was, predictably, very hot. There was no shade. There was no indoor seating. The outdoor seating they did have was in the form of four tiny, hard, uncomfortable benches facing the parking lot. While sitting outside on the tiny, uncomfortable benches, we were listening to the noise of cars coming and going and breathing in the exhaust fumes of all the cars. We had the hot sun directly in our eyes. I found myself wishing that they had included green space and trees in their lot, instead of just an asphalt ocean. In the end, we chose to leave the benches and eat our ice cream in my fiancee’s car, just like everyone else who was there, also eating in their cars.

While we were sitting there, I couldn’t help reflecting on the difference in experience between this DQ in the states and the DQ in my hometown, in Canada.

In my hometown, our DQ is placed near a main road, but not directly on it like the American one. The DQ in my hometown is located within a residential area, instead of on a commercial-only stroad. It is surrounded mostly by homes but there are a few other restaurants. It is down the street from a high school in one direction and a middle school in the other direction, so people can stop and get ice cream with their kids after school lets out. It is across the road from a bus stop. There is a small parking lot, multiple bike racks, and wide sidewalks leading to it, so people can arrive how they wish. The DQ in my hometown has ample seating, both inside and outside. They have a full dining room with air conditioning inside, and outside they have a fenced patio with picnic tables, and there are trees and awnings to provide shade. There is a drive through option as well as a walk-in option, so people who want to pick up their ice cream by car and go are separated from the people who arrive by foot or bike.

At the American DQ next to a busy stroad, my fiancee and I sat outside it in the sun for only ten minutes before we decided we’d rather just eat in comfortable seating, out of the sun, by moving to her car. At the Canadian DQ nestled in a quiet residential neighborhood, I’ve gone with my sister and my mom many times. We sit and eat our ice cream together, enjoying our outing as a family practically every time we go.

The differences in experience for these two ice cream shops with identical menus was a startling night-and-day difference, just based on how the shop was designed. These two shops really demonstrated to me in a real way how much more pleasant it is when shops are designed for people, not for cars.

Which business do you think will do a better job of creating repeat customers? I know for sure which business I’d rather visit again.

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