The goals are often clear, but the path is seldom easy. The rules are practical yet engaging - worded for arguments at the planning commission, illustrated for clarity, and packed with specifications as well as data. For ease of use, the rules are grouped into 19 chapters that cover everything from selling walkability, to getting the parking right, escaping automobilism, making comfortable spaces and interesting places, and doing it now! Walkable City was written to inspire; Walkable City Rules was written to enable. It is the most comprehensive tool available for bringing the latest and most effective city-planning practices to bear in your community.
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Jan 02, Keith Swenson rated it really liked it Surprising amount of information on why our cities are formed the way they are, the forces that keep them that way, and some suggestions on how to change that. Those quaint old-towns of Europe. San Francisco. Castro street in Mountain View. Lincoln Street in San Jose. I will never forget the two years I spent in Munich and how that contrasts with the rest of my life in the southwest.
We all know it is the car that shapes our cities into sprawling Surprising amount of information on why our cities are formed the way they are, the forces that keep them that way, and some suggestions on how to change that. We all know it is the car that shapes our cities into sprawling suburbs which are too sparsely populated to be walkable. Speck starts the book with 65 pages on why walking and bike riding is a good idea: for health reasons, diabetes, the environment, safety.
I suppose he had to start making a strong justification, but if you already know you would like a walkable city, you could probably skip section 1 and move right on to section 2. The heart of the book is the ten steps to walkability, and he devotes a well written chapter to each. The ONLY report universally requested for any city planning is a "traffic study.
Everyone hates sitting in a traffic jam; there is only one dominant agenda: try to prevent all traffic jams. Walkability studies, and "pleasant surroundings" studies are all too absent -- we collectively seem to forget about those. Speck introduces the principle of "Induced Demand" -- the idea that if you build a bigger road, then more people get cars, and the roads remain just as full. Bigger highways mean more traffic.
What is not obvious, is the converse: remove the highway and congestion gets lower. He has a number of examples where highways have been removed, and the result is a much nicer environment. He even has some evidence that roads narrowed from 3 lanes to 2 lanes actually still carry the same amount of traffic.
I am skeptical of this, however I do recognize that complex systems behave in non-intuitive ways, and his argument aligns with the idea that traffic engineers make much too many simplifying assumptions treating a city like a simple machine instead of a complex system. He highlights the important battle between state traffic engineers for highways, and little towns that the highway goes through. The state always requires widening - which is precisely what kills the walkability of the town.
Part of the evil is wide streets themselves: make a street narrower, people drive slower, pedestrians are safer, and everyone enjoys the area more. All of this is designed to cut down on unnecessary traffic, and he ends suggesting that congestion pricing charging people to drive in congested areas or times of day is a smart answer and worked well for London.
Allow "granny cottages" which are small residences mixed in with the suburban single-family monotony. It is critical that low-income and high-income be mixed. Parking places cost tens of thousands of dollars each, and we all demand that they be provided such that usage is free. If something is free, it is used up quickly. I had no idea how much money the city and the businesses in the city spend on parking.
In my city it is cheaper to park all day than to take readily available transit downtown Many cities REQUIRE businesses to provide free parking -- an addiction made into law -- so naturally our downtowns are sprinkled with parking lots that separate the stores, and make it impossible to walk around.
Parking is a huge background cost that has been hidden from view, and because it is relatively free for the user, it prevents other viable forms of transport. The last yards is the most important: light rail should go directly to the middle of the interesting spot, not a block away, and not on the other side of a parking lot.
Here again he covers all the ways that pedestrian zones can be built with the best of intention, and fail. Many American cities blocked streets only to find the area die, and many walking streets have been reverted.
A walking street can work, but for American towns a better idea is simply keeping regular streets narrow. This slows the cars, makes everyone safer and more comfortable. The sidewalks need not be wide to make a safe zone. Lots of ways to make cities friendly to bikes.
A bike lane can carry more people per hour than an automobile lane. Small is good. The climate is never so bad it prevents the need for walkability. Lots of evidence for how trees make the streets safer and more pleasant. Again, the traffic studies often designate trees for removal because they are a hazard to drivers -- what is our priority here? Speck always associates making drivers slow down with goodness and safety. Our goal is not to make cities where people can speed in and out of without delay.
Make cities attractive for walkers. Obviously, nice architecture is important, but you can do with wrong. Some good stories about successful examples. The last chapter is about being pragmatic. A small change can sometimes have dramatic effect. If you love your city, you will get this book, read it, and take action. It is designed to give you an actionable point of view, and back that up with some evidence to convince.
It is important, because many of our intuitions are wrong: it is true, angry citizens always demand a traffic study first -- but that is probably not important at all to making a city that is nice to be in. How many times have I heard suburban homeowners complain about the new apartment block going in -- but density is what makes those old towns so nice!
It is all about quality of life. It is books like this that make we think that all is not lost for American cities, and provides a glimpse of hope for the future.
Jeff Speck: 4 Ways to Make a City More Walkable
Walkablr those were the days of cheap energy, of abundant petroleum being used by a minority of the world. A small change can sometimes have dramatic effect. All of this is designed to cut down on unnecessary traffic, and he ends suggesting that congestion pricing charging people to drive in congested areas or times of day is a smart answer and worked well for London. Does culture matter in the development of walkable cities, or can structural and spatial changes drive transformations all on their own?
10 Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable
Most of them also have something to do with redressing the deleterious effects caused by our allowing cars to dominate urban spaces for decades. Put cars in their place. Jeff believes, and I tend to agree, that a car-first approach has hurt American cities. This is in part because traffic engineers too often have failed to acknowledge that increased roadway traffic capacity can lead to more, not fewer, cars on the road.
JEFF SPECK WALKABLE CITY PDF
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time