Liveable Cities Index, oh so safe & sound

The Liveable Cities Index by Economist gathers lots of visibility every year, with cities’ marketing departments bragging about high positions in social media, and local politicians using the scores as ammunition against their mayors in lower scoring cities.

The ranking measures cities on 30 factors related to safety, health care, educational resources, infrastructure and the environment. The top scores have been for years reserved for mid-sized cities from Canada and Australia, with some rather similar US and European cities making it to the top 10, as well. My former home city Helsinki is proud of its ranking in the 9th position this year.

These top cities are those of riverside terraces, great galleries, skillfully designed parks, flat whites whites and vibrant offering of established cultural events. They are like gastro burger restaurants, all original, all similar, populated by the global middle class educated elité easily swapping cities from Melbourne to Vienna.

Is that really all there is to liveability? At least that’s not all there is to vibrancy and creativity. Had New York been Vancouver-nice, we probably would not have had Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Basquiat, Mapplethorpe. Or even Madonna, the disco girl who lived through late-70’s boom. Had London been as safe and clean as Vienna, we would not have had Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols or Bowie. Or Banksy, whose works would have been efficiently washed away.

World’s mega cities are packed, clumsy, often dirty, sometimes dangerous. You can’t quite know what could happen, and you have to deal with all kinds of people. You might end up in weird places and odd situations. You see sights you might not particularly want to see.

That is the friction of the city you need to learn to cope with and digest which  But isn’t that what a City is all about?

Liveability