Public space in the United States does not exist. At least not in the area I live in. It seems that the norm is that there is no open public space available to anyone after dark. This contrasts heavily with I came to know as public space in Medellin, Colombia.
In Medellin, the city´s ‘sports units’, as the complexes are officially called, come alive at night with a variety of sports clubs taking the fields to practice, public zumba and aerobics lessons, occassional professional events and others. Why isn’t this implemented as a program by local governments in Montgomery County? If I want to practice a sport or just go outside somewhere to get some exercise at night, I either have to take to the streets for a jog or join a private club or gym of some sort. This seems pretty lame for the United States of America. For the most part, public space in the US is designed to get you to spend money or to go home.
Why don’t local high schools turn on their track lights so people can get some exercise in? Is it the weather? Is the expectation that colleges and universities will fulfill this social need? Does the fact that it doesn’t get dark until after 9 in the summer make local officials ignore the need for lighting at public sports venues during the rest of the year? In some communities, this might not make much of a difference, but I would be pretty bullish on promoting late-night public sports facilities in dense neighborhoods. The individual health benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the benefits this would have on many people’s sense of belonging and identity within their communities.