I made the mistake this past June of taking my bicycle to a sports bar off Union Square to watch Spain trounce Germany in the European Cup final. I say “mistake” not just because the team I favored played so poorly and lost, but because, sadly, my beloved mountain bike was stolen.

You see, for the first time this summer, instead of waiting on underground platforms for the subway in Manhattan’s summer heat, or gnashing my teeth whenever elderly bus-goers slowly alighted from the bus after traveling just half an avenue block, I decided that I would commute à bicyclette. And, believe it or not, even in a city known for its suicidal taxi drivers, perpetually potholed streets and accordion buses that defy the laws of physics by moving in two directions at the same time, I loved it. In fact, not only did I get where I was going for free, but I got across the city faster than those cars still stuck in traffic 20 blocks behind – to say nothing of the health benefits for myself, as well as the environment.

So where am I going with all this, you ask? I’m not asking for a new bicycle, although one would certainly be welcome . rather, I wondered how much more difficult moving around would have been were I not in the city. Even with my bike gone, I had no trouble walking or taking the subway. In the 50-year dilemma Americans have had about living in a city versus living in the suburbs, perhaps cities are again becoming more desirable.

There has always been a laundry list of pros and cons in opting for the urban or suburban: price of property, cost of living, distance to work and so forth. Surely, there have historically been compelling reasons to leave the cities; After World War II, returning GIs settled down by the millions; in the ’60s, urban violence brought about the flight of many middle class whites; and, all the while, cheaper property prices in the suburbs underpinned by the low cost of fuel made the exodus from cities all the more attractive.

But things are beginning to change. For one thing, the housing crisis has ravaged the suburbs; much of the suburban explosion over the last decade was an exercise in self-delusion for millions of Americans who simply could not afford or did not understand the mortgages they were taking out. And of course, there’s the upwardly trending price of oil. In 2006, still well before the advent of the $4 gallon of gas, the Center for Housing Policy noted that on average, for every dollar working American families save on housing, they spend 77 cents on transportation. As oil continues to fitfully rise, and the steady supply of crude remains ever in doubt with ongoing conflicts in Nigeria, instability in Iraq, hostility in Venezuela, the threat of war with Iran and the empire striking back at Georgia (an important transit country), a suburban lifestyle predicated on cheap gas looks increasingly expensive.

The rest of the world is getting richer, too. Millions of Chinese are buying automobiles for the first time, further increasing the strain on world oil supplies, making that long commute into the city not only a pain in the backside, but a pain in one’s wallet as well. Thus it is little wonder that in recent months, property values in cities or along venues of public transportation haven’t been nearly as affected as the beyond-the-horizon sprawl so common around major American metropolises. Unfortunately for us, such spread-out developments are not benefiting from expensive oil, and in most cases are difficult and costly to connect by public transportation. And in my travels, I’ve observed that Europe’s more compact developments, though smaller and bereft of vegetable gardens, are fortunate to be far better integrated into mass transit grids. There really isn’t a quick fix for our society, short of crude’s price declining.

And of course, one can’t discount that many American cities have become more attractive places to live; the “rotten apple” seems rather glamorous today, while “Hell’s Kitchen” has lost its flair for the hellish (if, of course, you avoid certain restaurants). Even previously run-down parts of D.C. have come a long way in recent years.

And yet to claim that the American suburb is in its dying throws would be foolish. Ironically, the crashing property value in many areas is making suburban property more affordable and desirable, especially in suburban areas that do have decent access to public transportation. Taken from this perspective, the once inexorably unending developments are in a period of slow consolidation, rather than outright demise – “suburban-smart,” if you will.

Still, today, city life seems more convenient and less uncertain than life in the suburbs, and while I don’t grow my own tomatoes, there’s always that Korean deli downstairs. Even without my green Schwinn bike, my transportation costs this summer have been mercifully low, even after losing a Metro card or two. Chalk one up for city living.

Adam Kemal is a junior in the College currently studying abroad at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, England.

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