That’s right, according to a new web service that compares data between cities, Kent is ranked in the top 2% of all cities in Ohio for walking and biking. That’s a great factoid but frankly I’m more impressed that somebody is actually out there gathering this kind of data. The internet used to be a great way to bounce around cyber-space, googling through web sites like a kid in a candy store. But now, web based companies have elevated information foraging into farming and even mining operations in similar evolutionary manner to our ancestors. No more rubbing sticks together, we’re talking nuclear fusion here.
First, let’s get back to the factoid.
It turns out that Kent’s data puts us near the top of the list for cities with residents that like to walk and bike. That’s probably no surprise to anyone that lives here, that’s part of the Kent lifestyle.
I’d guess it’s a combination of functionality — meaning we’re a relatively small geographic area so it’s pretty easy to get from point A to point B burning calories rather than hydro-carbons — and it seems to also reflect a part of our bohemian/college/counter-culture attitude that compels Kentites to reject conventional transportation. Better yet, we’re probably just a cheap lot, and gas gets expensive, so we choose to hoof it more than the average bear.
Whatever the reason, it’s a pretty interesting data point. It’s interesting number one, because it even exists, but it’s even more interesting because it’s a relative data point — it captures a piece of us by showing how we differ from other cities. It’s in those degrees of difference that we can start to better understand ourselves as a community. For me, it’s that kind of application that makes data meaningful.
I don’t know about you, but I typically feel so overwhelmed with the tsunami of information that’s now available (again, thanks to the internet) that I’d characterize my life as data rich, information poor — meaning that I can get my hands on reems of numbers and data points, but with so much of it out there, it’s hard to make any sense of it all.
I guess that’s the paradox of abundance in our modern age — we have more of everything than anyone ever had, yet in that abundance, we’ve lost our way — we can’t see the forest through the trees. I’m not just philosophizing here — I’ve seen the numbers. As a whole, we have more of everything we need for quality of life, yet we are more stressed and less satisfied with life than ever before.
It turns out that when you have so much to choose from, you get stressed with all the choices you have to make, and you end up less satisfied with every decision you make because you know what you had to give up by not taking something else. (I can see why the existentialists have had a bit of a revival in our post modern age).
Anyways, I bumped into a new web company (CityTownInfo.com) that apparently makes a living from mining through census data and other data sources to develop their own profiles of a city. From the profile, they can compare, and it’s from those comparisons that ranking are made. And in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a ranking for everything out there — most liveable this, most expensive that, best place for business, best looking, most fit, dumbest…you name it, there’s a ranking.
Here’s the way CityTown Information highlighted Kent (click here to access full page of information on Kent):
Kent strengths, compared to Peers (similar size places nationally) or State (other places in Ohio):
|Walking and Biking to Work
|College Educated Adults
|Public Transportation Use
In a world where we’ve lost our way, we seem to need rankings. There’s comfort in knowing that you rank somewhere in something. It’s a validation and vindication. We matter for something. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but to be honest I’m tiring of the numbers game, and I hate to sound jaded, but it seems like every city shows up at the top of some list so I’m beginning to wonder if the lists really tell us anything.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll parade around the list from the 1990’s that voted Kent a “best place” and I love awards as much as the next guy. But in the end, the best award comes from seeing people make choices to live, work and go to school in Kent, not because we’re on someone else’s list, but because living here feels right.
Actually, I know what it’s like to live in really busy places, so I’d like to keep Kent our little secret so I don’t have to worry about traffic when I walk or ride my bike around town with everyone else.