Making Urban Cemeteries More Urban

Urban cemeteries often have limited public access. Image: Google Maps via Streets.mn
Urban cemeteries often have limited public access. Image: Google Maps via Streets.mn

Should urban cemeteries be more accessible to the public? Alex Cecchini at Streets.mn thinks so.

Cecchini points out that many city cemeteries are fenced off save for a single entrance point, effectively disrupting the street grid more than any superblock. A graveyard in his Minneapolis neighborhood, for instance, allows motorists to drive through but requires cyclists to lock their bikes at the gate.

“I’m not advocating cemeteries remove all the fences along their edges and erect playgrounds for kids on their property,” says Cecchini, “but it would be nice to be a bit more welcoming to neighbors.”

Compare the number of official path entrances at most cemeteries to any public park with a similar size/surface area ratio, and then remember that without fences neighbors can enter a park at any point they please. As a result, even on a gorgeous spring day where hundreds, maybe thousands of folks were out walking and using the Minneapolis park system, Lakewood Cemetery was completely devoid of activity. Beyond failing at actually inducing people to quietly reflect, cemeteries become barriers to simply getting around the city on foot or bike.

I get it. Cemeteries aren’t usually public property and they also have the right to restrict the type of uses going on inside. I don’t think it would be appropriate to play a pickup game of frisbee or hoops among the dead. Yet as non-profits who don’t pay property taxes on enormous plots of valuable city land, cemeteries should be open to public input asking for better interaction while still respecting the nature of what they provide.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Mike’s Bogota Bike Blog says the Colombian capital is losing bike mode-share, and Greater Greater Washington notes that if cities don’t take cycling infrastructure seriously, motorists won’t either.

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