Same roads. Same neighborhoods. Same places with restaurants and shops and a big parking in the middle of the square lot. Same toilets.
It's alienating because it feels "fake" nearly anywhere you go. Nature, in a lot of places, doesn't have its rights (just look at how some states are "divided" by a straight line: terrifying).
Probably one of the worst place for that is Irvine in southern California.
Even if it's not "cookie cutter" everywhere, all the neighborhoods still look identical.
These decisions may look pragmatic but to many foreigners it feels alienating.
There are few (affordable) places in America right now that you can live without complete car dependence. The poor, elderly, young, and disabled are in fact alienated.
It's easy to understand why this pattern of settlement began when you consider the novelty, freedom, individuality (which can not be understated as something Americans valued), and convenience that came with the availability of automobiles.
Somehow though, we've moved forward through almost a century of such development, placing the car above all else. I'm reminded of Raquel Nelson, charged with (but thankfully not convicted) manslaughter because a hit an run driver killed her child while she was allegedly jaywalking .
My mom volunteers for Meals on Wheels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meals_on_Wheels), and a lot of the people they deliver to are in decent enough health, but just sort of trapped in suburban apartment complexes. They end up surviving through a mixture of charities like that one, and relatives who drive them around and bring them things. But many end up moving to assisted-living facilities after a bit, even though they don't truly need to live in a staffed facility, because the logistics of living in suburbia without a car are just unworkable, and they either don't know about or can't afford a more walkable area to move to.
Also, because Medicare covers nursing homes for people who can't take care of themselves (considered a medical expense) but not the lower-key assisted-living facilities (considered a residential expense, and more likely to be abused), people who run out of money when living in an assisted-living facility may be forced to move prematurely to a nursing home, if they aren't able to go back to living on their own. That ends up both worse for them and more expensive for the public.
Just as an example: blind people can't drive at all, but they can walk miles pretty easily and safely. And visual impairments of various sorts are, IIRC, the number one disability among the elderly.
Slower reaction times are similar: they destroy the ability to drive, but they're not a huge deal for walking up a flight of stairs.
I don't see many people out in wheelchairs either, and I agree accessibility for them could (and should) be improved. I do see quite a few people with walkers, though.
If you can think of more cities, let us know.
Denver is blessed with amazing central neighborhoods. I live in a house with a yard and the whole bit. Yet I'm 11 minutes by bus to Downtown. I generally ride my bike to work (we have an amazing intra-city bike path system) or take the bus. Because Denver is so incredibly compact getting around without a car is easy.
Our neighborhood has lots and lots of restaurants, coffee shops, dry cleaners, etc... so we almost always walk when we go out.
Point being: Denver certainly fits the bill.
It's also rather affordable. I'm a huge fan:)
They are small in proportion to the overall populations of the respective cities' urban areas, but that's almost entirely because public transportation has lagged the construction of suburbs and sprawl. Boston's T, or Philly's SEPTA were mostly constructed in the early 20th century so it's only those older areas that are feasible for car-free living. (The DC Metro is an interesting exception in that it's a much newer system, but it too fell out of step with development.)
In fact, I'd say that there's a sort of "car free radius" that's basically the edge of residential areas just before World War II. The suburbs that got built after that are hugely car-centric, ones built before typically aren't.
Also, there is a spectrum from being totally car-dependent to not owning a car. My parents live in the D.C. suburbs and they have more cars in their garage than people who live there. Because you can't even go to the drug store without driving several miles (and this isn't a far-flung exurb, they're only 17 miles from downtown) my brother and I each got a car as soon as we could drive. Meanwhile, I now live in Westchester (a suburb of NYC), and while I own a car I only drive it a couple of times a month (Costco trips mostly). The same is true for Chicago. Unlike in Manhattan, most people do own cars, but a large number of people don't use them that heavily because the suburbs are easily accessible by train.
From my experience I would say only the top 7 on the above list are fit for life without a car. Can't imagine not having a car living in Miami or Minneapolis.
full disclosure: I've lived in NYC without a car for 10 years, but grew up in Ohio completely car-dependent.
Edit: There are in fact many places that do meet the requirements of affordable and walkable, but a new concern in an age of urbanization is keeping them affordable. The desire for such neighborhoods is growing, but the supply is too low as of 2013.
Although being a single guy here, I think women see it as a red flag (at least from what I see on okcupid). Interested in moving to NYC unless I find somewhere cheaper and still interesting.
(Strictly speaking I'm a foreigner too, but I came here when I was 3 1/2 so I doubt it's memories of England that make me feel this way.)
On the other hand though, I agree with you. That same comfort makes it dissatisfying to travel at times. I live in an area of California surrounded by lots of historical smaller cities, but it's nearly pointless to travel to any of them because, aside from a few key features, they all look like the same place overall.
Don't even get me started about housing developments. Once you're lost in one of those, your best hope is to start leaving breadcrumbs.