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.
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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.
The resulting phenomenon of "induced demand" results in unanticipated consequences not only for traffic on freeways but especially in neighborhoods and downtowns, where streets are sometimes treated not as critical public spaces for animating city life but as conveyances for motor vehicles.
Jeff generally supports congestion pricing, but cautions that we must be very careful about assuming the merits of pedestrian-only zones. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Richard Masoner 2. Mix the uses. Jeff makes the point that, for most American downtowns, it is housing — places to walk from, if you will — that is in particularly short supply. He also points out, quite correctly, that for most still-disinvested downtowns, affordability is not much of an issue, because relatively affordable housing is all there is.
For those booming downtowns susceptible to gentrification, he recommends inclusionary zoning and "granny flats," or accessory dwelling units. Get the parking right. Jeff recommends consolidated parking for multiple buildings and businesses and higher prices, especially for curb parking, and shares a number of successful examples.
Let transit work. Jeff recommends concentrating on those transit corridors that can be improved to support ten-minute headways, and working there to simultaneously improve both the transit and the urban fabric.
Quoting transportation planner Darrin Nordahl, Jeff also reminds us that public transportation is "a mobile form of public space," and thus should be treated with respect and made pleasurable.
Amen to that. For the opposite, see my frustration with the deterioration allowed to the Washington Metro. Protect the pedestrian. Jeff asserts that roadway "improvements" that facilitate car traffic — such as wider lanes or one-way streets — encourage higher speeds; thus, we should instead use narrow lanes and two-way streets.
Intriguingly, he argues — as have other new urbanists — for stripping some roadways of signage and mode delineation. The idea is that, if drivers feel they might hit someone or something, they really will slow down or change routes.
Jeff supports, as I do, on-street curbside parking, because it buffers the sidewalk from moving vehicle traffic. Welcome bikes. Jeff does discuss the very interesting point that some experienced cyclists actually prefer riding in the main roadway rather than in a designated lane. Shape the spaces. This chapter is mostly about providing the sense of enclosure we need to feel comfortable walking.
And, once again, the main villain is the car, this time in the form of surface parking lots along the walkway. But Jeff also takes some shots at blank walls correctly and look-at-me architecture I somewhat, but not entirely, agree. He believes, as I do , that the amount of density to support good city walkability does not necessarily require tall buildings. Cities are changing fast. Keep up with the CityLab Daily newsletter.
The best way to follow issues you care about. Subscribe 8. Plant trees. But Jeff points out that, in addition to contributing to auto safety, trees provide myriad public benefits , including natural cooling, reduced emissions and energy demand for air conditioning, and reduced stormwater pollution.
Make friendly and unique [building] faces. I respond below. Pick your winners. Jeff argues for focusing on downtowns first, and on short corridors that can connect walkable neighborhoods.
In that sense, it reminds me of my good friend David Dixon , with whom I have done more co-presentations at various conferences than I can count. David is an accomplished architect and planner; I am a lawyer. Yet, almost inevitably, in our presentations I talk about design that I believe is good for the environment, and David talks about assembling the political will to get it done.
There is not a single visual image in the book, and really only a handful of verbal descriptions of successful walkable places. This book is intended to motivate more than to illustrate. Photo by Kaid Benfield To become competitive in the new marketplace for the best and brightest, cities must respond: The conventional wisdom used to be that creating a strong economy came first, and that increased population and a higher quality of life would follow. Vancouver and Portland, Jeff argues, are among the places that are doing just that.
Put another way, making driving less convenient, more difficult, and more expensive will be good for walkers and for cities. There are losers as well as winners in this approach to walkability.
Parks and greenery I do disagree with some of the suggestions in the book about greenery and parks, where I think Jeff is too dismissive. In a passage headlined "Boring Nature," he concedes that green spaces are "necessary" before adding "but they are also dull. In downtown D.
I believe we need respite and calm in cities as much as we need liveliness. Do some parks do a poor job of it? Oh, yeah. The way I see it, what these things "erase" is mostly mundane or ugly concrete. Moreover, they accomplish some important things besides just looking pretty. First, these techniques help prevent water pollution and combined sewer overflows, something Jeff rightly expresses concern about in his chapter on trees.
Second, even the book he co-authored, The Smart Growth Manual , advocates permeable pavement to control stormwater, as do a growing number of urban scientists and thinkers. Courtesy of Montgomery Planning I actually doubt we have much real disagreement on these things; over an appropriate beverage Jeff and I would probably come to a great deal of agreement on which kinds of green belong where. I definitely agree with the starting premise that cities should be cities and rural land and wilderness should be rural land and wilderness.
For me, the test of any city greening is whether or not it supports rather than displaces urban density and function. I disagree with those who espouse the oxymoronic "agrarian urbanism," or want to demolish buildings in disinvested cities to replace them with acre farms.
Smaller "farms" and gardens, though, can be great because they can support city life. One of the points I would try to make over that beverage would be that different approaches work in different cities and cultures. Rightly sized and designed green infrastructure and parks are among the things that make cities possible in the 21st century.
Connectivity shortens distances, making purposeful walking more attractive. Suburban sprawl and the flight of people and investment out of downtowns in the late 20th century made a mess of things. Some central cities, like Washington, have started to grow again, thank goodness. But even D. Others, like St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, remain far below their once-thriving levels and have yet to rebound.
CityFixer Go The most commonly discussed form of congestion pricing is called "cordon pricing," under which drivers are charged for entering downtown at certain times of day. It works in London, and might even work in New York, cities whose downtowns are so strong that they can withstand being taxed in a way that their suburbs are not.
But the last thing that still-recovering downtowns need is to give people and businesses another reason not to go there.
Besides, here in D. This needs some more thought and analysis before those of us who care about cities seize on it as a solution for everywhere. I could say even more There is so much more in the book that I wish I had more time and space to relate.
My sense is that Jeff, like I have on occasion, pretty much poured at least a little bit about everything he knew on the subject into this one volume, making it rich with interesting detail. The bottom line is that Walkable City is very good indeed, a worthy addition to the canon of urban thinking. The subject matter is critical, and Jeff is a very good and entertaining writer who keeps his reader engaged.
For those of us who think about cities for a living, this well-annotated treatise can help organize our thoughts and point us to helpful research and opinion. For those outside the field but in a position to do something, it summarizes some of the best thinking on what to do to tame the car culture and make cities more walkable. For those who are merely interested or who may be curious, it will change the way you see cities.
Walkable City Rules Download
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.
JEFF SPECK WALKABLE CITY PDF
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. The resulting phenomenon of "induced demand" results in unanticipated consequences not only for traffic on freeways but especially in neighborhoods and downtowns, where streets are sometimes treated not as critical public spaces for animating city life but as conveyances for motor vehicles. Jeff generally supports congestion pricing, but cautions that we must be very careful about assuming the merits of pedestrian-only zones.