The Atlantic Cities published an article today titled “The Case for Cul-de-Sacs,” highlighting the research of sociologist Thomas R. Hochschild Jr. His findings: “[cul-de-sac] residents experience the highest levels of attitudinal and behavioral cohesion, followed by dead-ends, then through streets.” They’re the most neighborly, in other words. It’s an interesting finding, and worthy of greater study despite the negative environmental and mobility impacts cul-de-sacs are usually associated with, but the first two paragraphs of the article reveal a major flaw in the study’s analysis. Emily Badger writes:
In a weird way, Thomas R. Hochschild Jr. actually first encountered the social cohesion of cul-de-sacs in his latest research when he wandered into one in Connecticut with his clipboard and polo shirt, and someone called the cops.
That never happened on the other types of streets he was studying, places where it would turn out the neighbors didn’t know each other as well, and it was less clear who “belonged.”
This is how we’re introduced to the story of how wonderful cul-de-sacs are for social cohesion. Doesn’t that seem wrong to you? It never addresses how absolutely perverse it is that the mere appearance of a stranger would warrant a call to the police, nor does the study consider what it says about the kind of social cohesion found in cul-de-sacs.