Monday, July 30, 2007

Lousy Anti-Semites

I came across a site which purports to answer this question: How walkable is your house? Was instantly suspicious. Typed my mother's former address into Walkscore's blank. Ha! Walkscore includes Grocery Stores, Restaurants, Coffee Shops, Bars, Movie Theatres -- well, the list goes on and on and on, but do we see Synagogues on the list? We do not.

As it happens, my mother's house on Cypress Place was something like a half-mile walk to the nearest synagogue -- a half-mile walk down a highway with occasional sidewalks. You wouldn't know this from Walkscore.

To be fair, Walkscore also fails to include churches and mosques in the walkability score. You could argue that they're not antisemitic, they're just typical consumerist atheists. The idea that anyone might consider going to a religious service of ANY denomination was just too extreme. There are fundamentalist ravagers of the planet, yes, but they're not the kind of people who would worry about the ozone layer; if they engage in organised religion they're obviously ALSO the kind of people who would leap into a gas-guzzling SUV without a second's thought.

That's one way of looking at it. The fact remains that observant Jews do not ride on the Sabbath. An observant Jew, thinking about where to live, will be more interested in whether a synagogue is within walking distance than in whether a coffee shop, bar or movie theatre is within walking distance, because there are no constraints on mode of transportation to coffee shop, bar or movie theatre. So Walkscore is completely useless to a group of Americans (the site seems to be confined to American addresses) who do in fact take walkability into account in deciding where to live.

We can certainly argue that there's a larger idiocy at work, since rather a lot of Americans claim to believe in God. But there is one religion which requires its practitioners to walk to services once a week, as well as on a glorious multiplicity of religious festivals. Sadly, a religion beneath the radar of Walkscore.

2 comments:

publicdomaining said...

Hello,

I like reading your entries. And I like the little bits of hopeful signs like Walk Score. So I've found a Contact Us link at their website and fired off some text in a form.

Here's a copypaste:

"Hello,

I live in Canada - and Helen DeWitt, an author who lives in Europe, aren't exactly your target audience. But I think we care about the some of the same things - walkability, climate change, local communities and so on. And even though I don't believe in God or attend any sort of church service, a recent blog post that Helen DeWitt wrote does bring up a very good point: places of worship do not figure in the calculation of a walk score. (http://paperpools.blogspot.com/2007/07/lousy-anti-semites.html)

Your site is a great tool. This is suggestions for tinkering, is all.

Cheerio,
realfirstnamewithheld"

Ithaca said...

pd -- Now this is very sensible of you. Instead of firing a rant into the blogosphere, why not contact the people responsible? Why not send a complaint to the people in a position to fix things? Like you, I thought the site was a good idea.