For the longest time, I have intuitively saw the world though the Strong Towns lens without knowing it. Shortly after I graduated from college, my parents bought a home in a Scottsdale suburb with nothing but roads for miles. I hated visiting there, but I had trouble understanding why I hated the place so much. All around were new, shiny buildings, beautiful nature (in empty blocks), new strip malls, and lots of new smooth freeways and concrete. It was an inhuman place, but it seemed like it should be the next greatest thing.

Around my own hometown, there were areas of pre WWII development and suburban sprawl. I was always attracted to the dense, chaotic areas, and I absolutely loathed the stroads and cul-de-sacs of the new neighborhoods. I knew what I didn’t like, but I didn’t understand why. My parents and many friends loved suburbia and tried to convince me that I had it all wrong. My intuition told me something was wrong with everybody; even myself.

Then, I moved to Paris for a job. The complexity and chaos of the very organic place told me that I had found the right place. I knew where things could be most right.

But in returning to the USA, I was only convinced that we needed more trains, bike lanes (on stroads), and more density (unthinking density). I didn’t understand the influence of centralized government, of top-down planning and thinking that had been leading us to build atrocious places at atrocious prices.

Hearing the Strong Towns podcast for the first time was an epiphany. Finally, I understood the roots of our exurban evil and why I found places that had transit, density, and bike lanes that I still disliked. It’s such a simple message and a smart approach; that we can actually do more with less by actually thinking, and thinking incrementally. The posts, podcasts, and discussion that I hear every day give reason to the gut feelings I have about all sorts of things that I encounter in civic life.

— Alex Mandel, Strong Towns Member from Mercer Island, WA

Join Alex and others from around the country in stepping up, doing your part to support the Strong Towns movement.