cities exist, after all, because people benefit from coming together
“What the data clearly shows,” West notes, “is that when people come together they become much more productive.”
It is theoretically possible that, rather than suburbs making people fat, fat people make suburbs. But only a soulless pundit funded by the automotive industry—and there are several—would claim that people are not more likely to be healthy in environments that invite walking.
They [car crashes] are the leading cause of death for all Americans between the ages of one and thirty-four
car crashes far outweighed murder by strangers as a cause of death in all locations
The study concluded that an hour spent driving triples your risk of heart attack in the hours that follow.
While many of us love driving, we hate commuting.
“a 23-minute commute had the same effect on happiness as a 19 percent reduction in income.”
5 percent of respondents said that they would be “willing to divorce their spouse if that meant they could stop commuting and work from home instead.”
commuting ranks as people’s least favorite regular activity, less favored than housework or child care. “Intimate relations” scored highest—big surprise there—followed closely by socializing after work.
commute time is more predictive than almost any other variable he measured in determining civic engagement. He states that “each ten additional minutes in daily commuting time cuts involvement in community affairs by ten percent—fewer public meetings attended, fewer committees chaired, fewer petitions signed, fewer church services attended, and so on.”
“Lowly, unpurposeful, and random as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow.”
“Rather than exercising for the sake of exercising, try to make changes to your lifestyle.
But we do know that we need to be active in order to be healthy and that walking is the easiest way for most humans to be usefully active. Let’s make it easier.
In most of the United States, an electric-powered car is essentially a coal-powered car, and “clean coal” is of course an oxymoron.
But while the Altima driver pays fourteen cents a mile for fuel, the Leaf driver pays less than three cents per mile, and this difference, thanks to the law of supply and demand, causes the Leaf driver to drive more.
What do you expect when you put people in cars they feel good (or at least less guilty) about driving, which are also cheap to buy and run? Naturally, they drive them more. So much more, in fact, that they obliterate energy gains made by increased fuel efficiency.
Electric vehicles are clearly the right answer to the wrong question.
this footprint includes “the emissions from the construction of the vehicles; the embodied energy of streets, bridges and other infrastructure; the operation and repair of this infrastructure; the maintenance and repair of the vehicles; the energy of refining fuel; and the energy of transporting it, together with the pipes, trucks and other infrastructure that is required to do so.” These add an estimated 50 percent more pollution to the atmosphere than emissions alone.
A much larger multiplier effect comes from the way that all of our other, nonautomotive consumption patterns expand as we drive.
The real problem with cars is not that they don’t get enough miles per gallon; it’s that they make it too easy for people to spread out, encouraging forms of development that are inherently wasteful and damaging.
it turns out that the way we move largely determines the way we live.
Rather than trying to change behavior to reduce carbon emissions, politicians and entrepreneurs have sold greening to the public as a kind of accessorizing. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” is the message, just add another solar panel, a wind turbine, a bamboo floor, whatever. But a solar-heated house in the suburbs is still a house in the suburbs, and if you have to drive to it—even in a Prius— it’s hardly green.
calling this phenomenon gizmo green: the obsession with “sustainable” products that often have a statistically insignificant impact on the carbon footprint when compared to our location. And, as already suggested, our location’s greatest impact on our carbon footprint comes from how much it makes us drive.
that compared four factors: drivable versus walkable location; conventional construction versus green building; singlefamily versus multifamily housing; and conventional versus hybrid automobiles. The study made it clear that, while every factor counts, none counts nearly as much as walkability.
the most green home (with Prius) in sprawl still loses out to the least green home in a walkable neighborhood.
And because it’s better than nothing, LEED—like the Prius—is a get-out-of-jail-free card that allows us to avoid thinking more deeply about our larger footprint.
puts it, “LEED architecture without good urban design is like cutting down the rainforest using hybrid-powered bulldozers.”
“We are a destructive species, and if you love nature, stay away from it. The best means of protecting the environment is to live in the heart of a city.”
and committed to removing fifty-five thousand parking spaces from the city every year for the next twenty years
These are all places with compact settlement patterns, good transit, and principally walkable neighborhoods. Indeed, there isn’t a single auto-oriented city in the top fifty.
Vancouver is not ranked number one for livability because it is so sustainable; the things that make it sustainable also make it livable.
I was healthier, wealthier, wiser—and happier—all due to what transportation engineers would call a simple mode shift.
This shift was caused by nothing more or less than the design of my city.
and in most of our nation, the car is no longer an instrument of freedom, but rather a bulky, expensive, and dangerous prosthetic device, a prerequisite to viable citizenship.
I got rid of my car because my city invited me to and rewarded me in spades.
every city has an obligation to free its residents from the burden of auto dependence.
We will be able to live carless again in the future. In the meantime, it will be one convenient transportation choice among many, in a landscape that makes choice possible.
must understand the value of moving under one’s own power at a relaxed pace through a public sphere that continuously rewards the senses.
the cities that enjoy a higher standard of living because they provide a better quality of life.
The automobile is a servant that has become a master.
All three seem to favor blank walls, repetition, and a disregard for the pedestrian’s need to be entertained.
the current situation, in which the automobile has mostly been given free rein to distort our cities and our lives.
It is an instrument of freedom that has enslaved us.
by a lobby as powerful as our “Road Gang,” the consortium of “oil, cement, rubber, automobile, insurance, trucking, chemical, and construction industries, consumer and political groups, financial institutions, and media”
“the right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar, in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle, is actually the right to destroy the city.”
Because there have been so many incentives for driving, cars have behaved like water, flowing into every nook and cranny where they have been allowed.
it is fully within the capabilities of the typical American city to alter its relationship to the automobile in subtle ways that can have a tremendous impact on walkability—to welcome cars, but on its own terms.
because induced demand is the great intellectual black hole in city planning, the one professional certainty that everyone thoughtful seems to acknowledge, yet almost no one is willing to act upon. It’s as if, despite all of our advances, this one (unfortunately central) aspect of how we make our cities has been entrusted to the Flat Earth Society.
As long as engineers are in charge of traffic studies, they will predict the need for engineering.
Induced demand is the name for what happens when increasing the supply of roadways lowers the time cost of driving, causing more people to drive and obliterating any reductions in congestion.
“on average, a 10 percent increase in lane miles induces an immediate 4 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled, which climbs to 10 percent—the entire new capacity—in a few years.”
I won’t name it here, because I would like to work with them again.
They also build a lot of sprawl, since they do everything and the biggest part of everything is still sprawl.
This all adds up to a situation in which you are paying to drive whether you drive or not, in which the more you drive, the less each mile costs, and in which the greatest constraint to driving, then, is congestion. While the cost of the trip will rarely keep us home, the threat of being stuck in traffic often will
Congestion saves fuel because people hate to waste their time being miserable.
we can stop making stupid decisions that placate angry citizens while only hurting them in the long run.
There is a simple answer to congestion—and it’s the only answer—which is to bring the cost of driving on crowded streets closer in line with its value.
In Virginia, whose DOT is famous for calling street trees “FHOs”—Fixed and Hazardous Objects
I run in a panic to Google Maps to see which, if any, of the downtown streets are state property. Then, if there are many, I adjust my fee up and their expectations down. Because dealing with the state DOT almost always means that the outcome will be a disappointment.
The communities that prevail are those whose elected officials confront the DOT head-on and publicly demand a more walkable solution.
but even small towns can come out on top if they make enough noise.
In city after city, left to their own devices, traffic engineers were widening streets, removing trees, and generally reaming out downtowns to improve traffic flow. Much of this was happening below the mayor’s radar.
Because most of the public complaints one hears in cities are about traffic, it stands to reason that any good public servant would work to reduce traffic congestion. This would be acceptable if efforts to reduce traffic congestion didn’t wreck cities and perhaps also if they worked. But they don’t work, because of induced demand.
Most city engineers don’t understand induced demand. They might say that they do, but, if so, they don’t act upon that understanding.
Stop spending people’s tax dollars giving them false hope that you can cure congestion, while mutilating their cities in the process.
I understand that it might be difficult to tell the public that you can’t satisfy their biggest complaint.
We can have the kind of city we want. We can tell the car where to go and how fast. We can be a place not just for driving through, but for arriving at.
This is the story that traffic engineers should be sharing, rather than spending their careers running scared from congestion. Until they do, it will be necessary for mayors, Main Street merchants, and concerned citizens to discredit them.
to waste their careers in a fake science that cares nothing about evidence; that doesn’t ask a fruitful question in the first place and that, when unexpected evidence turns up anyhow, doesn’t pursue it.
A fair percentage of my time was spent convincing people that, when it came to their road, I knew more than they did.
In both cases, contrary to the apocalyptic warnings of traffic engineers, most of the car trips simply disappeared. They did not pop up elsewhere, clogging surface streets; people just found other ways to get around, or felt less compelled to be mobile.
proponents shopped the idea around to mayoral candidates, in the hope that someone would make it their platform. The one candidate who bit—ironically, the former president of the company that built the freeway—was elected on that promise.
Some threatened suicide unless the project was stopped.
the city has been eliminating 2 percent of its downtown parking spaces every year, for the past thirty years.
It would seem that only one thing is more destructive to the health of our downtowns than welcoming cars unconditionally and that is getting rid of them entirely.
because if a pedestrian zone is going to be successful, it will thrive due to its location, demographics, and organization—not its streetscape.
congestion pricing, a vastly underutilized tool that communities can use to protect themselves from the automotive hordes.
But what if motorists were asked to pay something closer to the real cost of driving, so that they were once again allowed to make market-based choices about when to drive where?
Mayor Ken Livingstone proposed the only known cure, economics. Against “a massive and sustained media campaign,”36 he introduced a roughly fifteen-dollar fee for any driver who wanted to enter the congested heart of the city on weekdays, with the revenue to be used to support a progressive transportation agenda.
“Americans are in the habit of never walking if they can ride.”
“Beyond a certain speed, motorized vehicles create remoteness which they alone can shrink. They create distances for all and shrink them for only a few.”
The model American male devotes more than 1600 hours a year to his car.
The model American puts in 1600 hours to get 7500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 percent of their society’s budget to traffic instead of 28 percent.
the faster a society moves, the more it spreads out and the more time it must spend moving.
Cities were created to bring things together.
and thus began the century of separating everything from everything else.
As more and more American industry is either outsourced overseas or executed by laptoppers who can live wherever they please
who is first charged with creating a city where people want to be.
this person understands that future economic growth will take place where the creative people are, and then works to lure more residents downtown.
“Don has been saying the exact same thing for 40 years, and finally the world is listening to him.”
Parking covers more acres of urban America than any other one thing
“the cost of all parking spaces in the U.S. exceeds the value of all cars and may even exceed the value of all roads.”
because cities and other sponsors keep parking prices artificially low.
People who walk, bike, or take transit are bankrolling those who drive. In so doing, they are making driving cheaper and thus more prevalent, which in turn undermines the quality of walking, biking, and transit.
all this free and underpriced parking contributes to a circumstance in which a massive segment of our national economy has been disconnected from the free market, such that individuals are no longer able to act rationally. Or, more accurately, in acting rationally, individuals are acting against their own self-interest.
but it only produces one benefit: cheaper parking. How does it perform in terms of other important measures? Well, it worsens air and water quality, speeds global warming, increases energy consumption, raises the cost of housing, decreases public revenue, undermines public transportation, increases traffic congestion, damages the quality of the public realm, escalates suburban sprawl, threatens historic buildings, weakens social capital, and worsens public health, to name a few things.
If cities required restaurants to offer a free dessert with each dinner, the price of every dinner would soon increase to include the cost of dessert. To ensure that restaurants didn’t skimp on the size of the required desserts, cities would have to set precise “minimum calorie requirements.” Some diners would pay for desserts they didn’t eat, and others would eat sugary desserts they wouldn’t have ordered had they paid for them separately. The consequences would undoubtedly include an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. A few food-conscious cities like New York and San Francisco might prohibit free desserts, but most cities would continue to require them. Many people would get angry at even the thought of paying for the desserts they had eaten free for so long.
A bowling alley requires 1 space per employee, plus 5 spaces per lane. A swimming pool requires 1 space per twenty-five hundred gallons of water. These requirements are then passed from city to city and town to town, almost always resulting in the same outcome: too much parking.
In 2010, the first nationwide count determined that there are half a billion empty parking spaces in America at any given time.
found that, during times of peak demand, almost four out of ten parking spaces were empty.
Real estate developers were allowed to cheat on their parking requirements by as much as 50 percent if the land area saved was turned into a natural “landscape reserve” that could be converted to parking if the need arose.
ample parking encourages driving that would not occur without it.
taking the form not of destruction, but of obstruction: things failing to happen.
found that requiring one parking space per home “increased housing costs by 18 percent and reduced density by 30 percent.”
requires many businesses that offer free employee parking to give their workers the option of trading that parking space for its cash equivalent.
This is an ingenious law, because it is all carrot and no stick.
found that roughly a third of all traffic congestion was made up of people trying to find a parking spot.
Why were these first meters so popular? Because they reduced overcrowding and hassle, but also because they increased turnover, ensuring more customers per hour.
Finally, the city proposed charging one dollar per hour on-street, and all hell broke loose.
Opponents, mostly local employees, mounted a noisy “Honk if You Hate Paid Parking” campaign. This was quickly met by a rogue “Honk if You Love Dirty Air” campaign, in reference to all the cruising and double parking that had become the norm.
posted that “only 30 minutes after we instituted the parking management program, it is working.”
the combination of free parking lots and curbside meters caused a ghost-town effect: nobody parked at the curb, the place felt dead, and drivers sped recklessly along empty streets.
It also made us some friends, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.
It was found that a fourfold increase in parking price shortened the average park-and-visit time by 66 percent, vastly increasing turnover for merchants. The average time spent searching for parking dropped from 6.1 minutes per trip to a mere 62 seconds.
parking decisions are never made in a vacuum and political pressures from an uninformed public can often sway the outcome.
When the city first proposed installing meters, it was fought vehemently by downtown merchants, who were convinced that they would lose all their business to the mall. This battle dragged on for two years before a compromise was reached.
The final bone that the city threw to its reluctant merchants was this: all the net revenue from the parking meters would pay for physical improvements and new public services in Old Pasadena.
“If nonresidents pay for curb parking, and the city spends its money to benefit the residents, charging for curb parking can become a popular policy rather than the political third rail it often is today.”
the fact that it is just so hard to take away anybody’s free anything.
These, too, can be priced at market value for maximum efficiency, but they must sometimes be deployed at a low cost to win over residents who stand in the way of a larger public benefit
And, you didn’t hear it from me, but once residents get used to the idea of paying for a coveted parking pass—even just a “processing fee” of twenty bucks a year—you would be surprised how quickly they are willing to pay considerably more.
Such management takes full advantage of the free market but—this is important—it is not the free market. The single largest land use in every American city is very much that city’s business.
this strategy could perhaps be described as the wrong path to the right result.
For the most part, cities support either driving or everything else.
that somebody in them is probably laboring feverishly to dramatically transform their transit system. <…> someone out there is hunting down federal and state dollars, leading fact-finding junkets, and otherwise fighting the good fight for mass transit.
With rare exceptions, every transit trip begins and ends with a walk. As a result, while walkability benefits from good transit, good transit relies absolutely on walkability.
in its recognition of the impacts of one person’s transit on another’s traffic, known as the “multiplier effect.” In San Francisco, for example, every passenger mile traveled by rail replaces nine miles traveled by car.
Emboldened by a poll that showed strong support for transferring road funds to non-automotive transportation, the state government reversed a five-toone roads-to-transit spending ratio to one to five. This change paid for a new rail system that has increased patronage since the early nineties from 7 million to an astounding 50 million riders per year.
determined that each resident of the seven high-quality cities paid roughly $370 more per year for public transportation than a resident of the other fortythree, but saved $1,040 in vehicle, parking, and road costs.
Compact, diverse, walkable neighborhoods were the basic building blocks of cities from the first nonnomadic settlements over ten thousand years ago until the height of the auto age.
sprawl, which is defined as being vast, homogeneous, and unwalkable.
The only way to reduce traffic is to reduce roads or to increase the cost of using them, and that is a bitter pill that few pro-transit cities are ready to swallow. Civic leaders insist that driving remain as cheap and convenient as ever and new systems like DART go hungry for riders.
streetcar succeeded as a tool for increasing urban vibrancy because it was first a tool for neighborhood development.
first, because it is a mistake to promote a streetcar in the absence of a major real estate opportunity and, second, because such an opportunity suggests the presence of private parties who stand to benefit tremendously from the investment.
Principally, streetcars enliven not the downtown, but the new area opened up for development. Downtown only benefits as a secondary impact, if and when thousands of people move into the previously underdeveloped area.
how do you create a transit-and-walking culture in a place where driving is so easy?
It may not be possible. In some of these locations, the bus is destined to remain the “loser cruiser,” the mode of choice for those who have no choice: the elderly, poor, and infirm.
one-day bus strike I encountered in Florence, Italy: the drivers showed up for work but, once the passengers boarded, they cruised wherever the heck they wanted. We got the message.
People hate to look at schedules almost as much as they hate waiting, so ten-minute headways are the standard for any line that hopes to attract a crowd. If you can’t fill a bus at that rate, then get a van.
public transportation is “a mobile form of public space,” and can provide so many of the benefits we seek from our time spent out of the house.
the imperative of competitive transit has a hard side and a soft side. The hard side is all about not wasting people’s time and the soft side is about making them happy. If you can commit to doing both, then you can get people out of their cars.
Oregon’s popular Eugene-to-Springfield BRT even has its own artwork and landscaping program, not just at stations, but along the whole line.
the city is living up to its motto of “Breathing Required, Driving Optional.”
Households buy a $120 EcoPass that gives all members free rides all year—and also gives them special treatment at local stores, restaurants, and bars. As a result, an entire EcoPass culture has evolved, in which driving just isn’t as cool.
It is only in the driving-optional cities with good public transportation, taxis, walking, and biking that car-share can thrive.
After a year of service, Zipcar Baltimore polled its members and found that they were walking 21 percent more, biking 14 percent more, and taking transit 11 percent more than before joining.
About a fifth of members had sold their cars, and almost half claimed that Zipcar had saved them from having to buy a car.
There is only one challenge to Zipcar, which is that they are too smart to locate in unwalkable cities.
a lack of concern for the pedestrian and <…> The first cause is political, and can be overcome through advocacy.
the more blocks per square mile, the more choices a pedestrian can make and the more opportunities there are to alter your path
These choices also make walking more interesting, while shortening the distances between destinations.
they found no single variable to be more predictive of injury and death than block size. <…> All told, a doubling of block size corresponded with a tripling of fatalities.
Big-block, multilane systems result in streets that are both harder to cross and easier to speed on.
the most significant threshold is between one lane and two lanes in any given direction, since that second lane offers the opportunity to pass and thus allows drivers to slip into a “road racer” frame of mind.
Whichever lane you are in, the other one looks faster.
Multilane streets are much more dangerous for drivers as well, thanks to the “killed by kindness” scenario. As it typically unfolds, this story line involves a motorist signaling left and an approaching car in the adjacent lane slowing down to allow the turn. As the motorist crosses the centerline, a speeding car in the far lane, hidden by the kind driver, T-bones the turning vehicle.
four-lane streets can be as inefficient as they are deadly, because the fast lane is also the left-hand turn lane, <…> Thanks to this inefficiency, many cities across the country are finding it politically possible to introduce something called a “road diet.” In a road diet, a standard four-lane street is replaced by a three-lane street: one lane in each direction and a center lane reserved for left turns.
In a typical road-diet conversion, Orlando’s Edgewater Drive, the number of crashes fell by 34 percent and, because the crashes were slower, the number of injuries fell by an impressive 68 percent
the surprising thing is that they do not reduce a street’s carrying capacity. Thanks to the inherent efficiency of maintaining a dedicated turning lane, the typical road diet does nothing to lower the traffic volume on a street. Comparison of seventeen different road diets conducted by the engineering firm AECOM found that only two streets lost capacity, while five stayed the same, and ten actually handled more cars per day after the conversion.
There is hardly a downtown in the United States that does not have a four-laner that would benefit from a road diet tomorrow.
A happy by-product of the road diet is the additional ten to twelve feet of roadway freed up by the eliminated lane. This space can be used to expand sidewalks, plant trees, create a missing parking lane, or replace parallel parking with angled parking in a business district.
This solution presents the additional benefit of avoiding the expense of rebuilding any curbs.
left-hand turn lanes have done more than their share to wreck a good number of American downtowns.
Most American downtowns suffer from unnecessary and overlong left-hand turn lanes that eliminate parking, broaden streets, speed up traffic, and otherwise detract from the pedestrian experience.
A three-car-long turn lane that eliminates three parking spaces at a corner is a vast improvement over the block-long monsters that most cities install without a second thought.
For me writing this and you reading it, it is undoubtedly clear that building wider lanes would cause drivers to speed.
allow me to introduce you to the second great misunderstanding that lies at the root of most urban degradation today: widening a city’s streets in the name of safety is like distributing handguns to deter crime.
the fundamental shortcoming of conventional traffic safety theory is that it fails to account for the moderating role of human behavior on crash incidence. Decisions to … widen specific roadways to make them more forgiving are based on the assumption that in so doing, human behavior will remain unchanged. And it is precisely this assumption—that human behavior can be treated as a constant, regardless of design—that accounts for the failure of conventional safety practice.
Now that we’ve publicly presented to you that narrower roads save lives, we are going to sue you when people die on your fat streets.”
this book can now be waved at planning meetings in support of more reasonable standards.
Recognizing that only 5 percent of pedestrian collisions at twenty miles per hour result in death, versus 85 percent at forty mph, the British have introduced twenty-mph speed limits in many of their cities.
Most motorists drive the speed at which they feel comfortable, which is the speed to which the road has been engineered.
“20’s Plenty” is most useful as a first step to slower design speeds. Once twenty-mph zones become more common, we may finally be able to convince the engineers to design twenty-mph streets.
Each and every aspect of the built environment sends its own cue to drivers and too many of those cues say “speed up.”
Most of them, unfortunately, are the law. Two more that deserve our attention are intersection geometry and sight triangles.
nobody drove dangerously through this intersection, precisely because the intersection felt dangerous.
Risk homeostasis describes how people automatically adjust their behavior to maintain a comfortable level of risk. It explains why poisoning deaths went up after childproof caps were introduced—people stopped hiding their medicines—and why the deadliest intersections in America are typically the ones you can navigate with one finger on the steering wheel and a cellphone at your ear.
the safest roads are those that feel the least safe, demanding more attention from drivers.
This standard mandates that all vertical objects such as buildings and trees maintain a minimum distance from street corners, so that drivers can see around them. Such a requirement makes perfect sense in a world in which design can’t affect behavior. But on planet Earth, it causes speeding at intersections.
Naked streets refers to the concept of stripping a roadway of its signage—all of it, including stop signs, signals, and even stripes.
Far from creating mayhem, this approach appears to have lowered crash rates wherever it has been tried. Following Monderman’s advice, the Danish town of Christiansfeld removed all signs and signals from its main intersection, and watched the number of serious accidents each year fall from three to zero.
pulled the centerline off a narrow street, and witnessed a 35 percent drop in the number of collisions.11 Drivers passed oncoming cars at a 40 percent greater distance than on a striped street, even though the striped roadway was wider.
“The trouble with traffic engineers is that when there’s a problem with a road, they always try to add something. To my mind, it’s much better to remove things.”
The goal is to create an environment of such utter ambiguity that cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians all come together in one big mixing bowl of humanity.
“Chaos equals cooperation.”
Monderman was a man with the courage of his convictions. One of his favorite tricks with television reporters was to speak to them while standing in front of a shared-space intersection he had built in the Dutch village of Oosterwolde. Without missing a beat, he would blindly walk backward into the flow of traffic, parting it like the Red Sea.
In good political fashion, the city asked the street’s neighbors to participate in the redesign of one of its key intersections, unaware that the neighborhood was infested with urban designers just back from Europe. “No curbs,” we said. “Just pave it with bricks from building face to building face.”
cities needed to retool themselves around the goal of moving suburbanites in and out of the downtown quickly.
these retrofitted streets were indeed effective at speeding commuters, enough so that there was no longer any reason to live downtown.
Thoroughfares that once held cars, pedestrians, businesses, and street trees became toxic to all but the first. Freed of other uses, they effectively turned into automotive sewers.
One-ways wreck downtown retail districts for reasons beyond noxious driving, principally because they distribute vitality unevenly, and often in unexpected ways. They have been known to kill stores consigned to the morning path to work, since people do most of their shopping on the evening path home. They also create a situation in which half the stores on cross-streets lose their retail visibility, being located over the shoulders of passing drivers. They intimidate out-of-towners, who are afraid of becoming lost, and they frustrate locals, who are annoyed by all the circular motions and additional traffic lights they must pass through to reach their destinations.
“One-way streets should not be allowed in prime downtown retail areas. We’ve proven that.”
if your downtown lacks vitality and it’s got one-ways, it’s probably time for a change.
What makes a sidewalk safe is not its width, but whether it is protected by a line of parked cars that form a barrier of steel between the pedestrian and the roadway.
If they are truly to offer an alternative to the automobile, bikes and trolleys must displace moving cars, not parked ones.
For that reason, the safest sidewalks are lined by both parked cars and trees.
In the interest of driver convenience, most American cities handed out curb cuts <…> These now send a very clear message to pedestrians that the sidewalk does not belong to them.
Another reliable bellwether is the visible absence of push-button traffic signals.
I remember when these were introduced during my childhood, and they seemed at the time like a gift. Wow, I can actually control the traffic light. What power! But the truth is quite the opposite. Push-buttons almost always mean that the automobile dominates, as they are typically installed in conjunction with a new signal timing in which crossing times are shorter and less frequent. Far from empowering walkers, the push button turns them into second-class citizens; pedestrians should never have to ask for a light.
in which all pedestrians wait a full cycle for all cars to stop and then are briefly given free rein over the entire intersection—including diagonally. <…> another example of “pedestrian safety” being used as an excuse to limit pedestrian convenience in the service of traffic flow. <…> they do make sense in places with pedestrian crowding, like Manhattan’s Union Square. <…> Smaller cities need to be aware that some big-city best practices just aren’t made for them.
The city claims that this change is partly due to a federal recalibration of pedestrian speed downwards from 4 feet per second to 3.5 feet per second (as Americans become fatter and slower targets).
“the widespread American practice of allowing cars to ‘turn right on red’ at intersections is unthinkable in cities that want to invite people to walk and bicycle.”
the leading pedestrian interval, or LPI, better known as the “pedestrian head start.” With the LPI, the “walk” signal appears about three seconds prior to the green light, allowing pedestrians to claim the intersection before cars do.
Four-way stop signs, which require motorists to approach each intersection as a negotiation, turn out to be much safer than signals.
these are not possible on the busiest streets, but most cities have many intersections that would benefit from the removal of their signals in favor of stop signs.
did a little digging, and found out that the firm the city hired to design its signalization regime was the same firm who then sold the city its signals.
As bike lanes have been added along New York’s avenues, injuries to pedestrians have dropped by about a third. Indeed, on Broadway and on Ninth Avenue, reported accidents and injuries to all users were cut in half, outpacing even the advocates’ expectations.
“It’s like being able to golf to work.”
money spent on bike lanes generates more than twice the jobs of money spent on car lanes. And if every American biked an hour per day instead of driving, the United States would cut its gasoline consumption by 38 percent and its greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent, meeting the Kyoto Accords instantly.
The conditions that support pedestrians are also needed to entice bikers. Once they are in place, the further provision of a truly useful biking network should be enough to allow a cycling culture to grow. Build it and they will come.
Food shopping is more likely to occur daily than weekly, to fit it in the bike basket. As Russell Shorto notes in The New York Times , biking means that the Dutch eat fresher bread.
He credits Jane Jacobs, of all people, with the transformation of Dutch thinking. It’s nice to know that somebody was listening to her back then.
For the cost of one mile of freeway—about $50 million —we’ve built 275 of bikeways.” Spending 1 percent of transportation funds on a network serving 8 percent of commuters sounds like a good deal
I know from personal experience that the less time my family spends in the car, the happier and healthier we are.”
The city converted one lane of Prospect Park West from driving to biking. As a result, the number of weekday cyclists tripled, and the percentage of speeders dropped from about 75 percent of all cars to less than 17 percent. Injury crashes went down by 63 percent from prior years. Interestingly, car volume and travel times stayed almost exactly the same—the typical southbound trip became five seconds faster—and there were no negative impacts on streets nearby.
who calls bike lanes “discrimination to those who prefer to own or need their cars for their livelihood or convenience.
found that “bicycling was nineteen to thirty-three times more likely to result in injury than driving a car the same distance.” Shortly after publishing his research, Kifer was killed by an automobile while biking.
concluded that the health benefits of biking outweigh the risks by twenty to one. In Hillman’s estimation, the regular cyclists were as fit as the noncyclists ten years younger and enjoyed such better health that their few biking injuries were almost statistically insignificant.
presence of an established cycling population, as it makes for more aware drivers, seems to be the biggest factor in bike safety.
In New York, with bicycling up 262 percent since 2000, injury risk has declined by 72 percent. In Portland, a fourfold increase in cycling has brought with it a 69 percent reduction in the crash rate. Davis, California, “America’s Bicycle Capital”—where one trip out of seven is by bike—has the lowest bicycle fatality rates of sixteen similarly sized California cities.
“The vehicular-style cyclist not only acts outwardly like a driver, he knows inwardly that he is one. Instead of feeling like a trespasser on roads owned by cars he feels like just another driver with a slightly different vehicle.”
In the vehicular cycling model, cyclists must constantly evaluate traffic, looking back, signaling, adjusting lateral position and speed, sometimes blocking a lane and sometimes yielding, always trying to fit into the “dance” that is traffic. Research shows that most people feel very unsafe engaging in this kind of dance, in which a single mistake could be fatal. Children as well as many women and elders are excluded. While some people, especially young men, may find the challenge stimulating, it is stressful and unpleasant for the vast majority. It is no wonder that the model of vehicular cycling, which the USA has followed de facto for the past forty years, has led to extremely low levels of bicycling use.
Vehicular cycling may indeed be the safest way to bike, but it is also the most exclusive.
If bike safety is largely a factor of the number of cyclists, as the studies insist, then any technique that works against their proliferation can hardly be considered safe.
found that “drivers tend to give cyclists more space as they pass when they are on a street without a bicycle lane. The white marking seems to work as a subliminal signal to drivers that they need to act less cautiously—that it’s the edge of the lane, and not the cyclist, that they need to worry about.”
Just like highways and transit, bicycle transportation will require public investment to succeed.
It is for this reason that specialists are the enemy of the city, which is by definition a general enterprise.
argued that it was not grassland or forest that provided the ideal early habitat for humans, but rather the boundary between the two, the “forest edge,” where both distant views and physical enclosure were present.
walkable urbanism is grounded in figural space. It believes that the shape of the spaces between buildings is what matters, because this is the public realm—the place where civic life plays out.
Now that both beauty and truth are considered subjective among the intellectual class, “interesting” has become the new term of highest praise
where the ostensibly overriding objective of enhancing each site’s natural ecology has led to a newfound disregard for creating well-shaped public spaces.
Since the key measure of a place’s spatial definition is its height-to-width ratio, wide spaces only feel enclosed when flanked by buildings of considerable height.
drew the limit at four stories, noting that “there is abundant evidence to show that high buildings make people crazy.”
dismissal of skyscrapers, which he terms “vertical cul-desacs,”
“above the fifth floor, offices and housing should logically be the province of the air-traffic authorities.”
tall buildings capture the air currents that circulate around the ten-story level, which “can cause wind speed at the foot of tall buildings to be up to four times greater than in the surrounding open landscape.”
the economists don’t seem to have fully processed one thing the designers know, which is how tremendously dense a city can become at moderate heights.
street trees are key to pedestrian comfort and urban livability in so many ways. In addition to offering shade, they reduce ambient temperatures in hot weather, absorb rainwater and tailpipe emissions, provide UV protection, and limit the effects of wind. Trees also slow cars and improve the sense of enclosure by “necking down” the street space with their canopies.
This is something most of us understand intuitively, but it doesn’t hurt to have studies.
Pennsylvania hospital between 1972 and 1981, <…> Half of these rooms faced (at some distance) a brick wall, while the other half faced a row of trees. All other factors were held constant. Under these conditions, those patients with tree views had fewer negative evaluations, required many fewer doses of potent narcotics, had a lower likelihood of postsurgical complications, and were discharged from the hospital, on average, a day earlier.
“in laboratory research, visual exposure to settings with trees has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension.”
finding that a drive on a treeless street is perceived to be significantly longer than an equallength drive on a street lined with trees.
“sidewalks are auto recovery zones where drivers have space to correct course if they’ve veered off.”
the presence of street trees and other vertical objects along the road edge correlated with a 5 to 20 percent decline in midblock crashes. (Accidents at intersections were relatively unaffected.)
compared four years of crash statistics from two different sections of Colonial Drive in Orlando and found that the section without trees or other vertical features experienced 12 percent more midblock crashes, 45 percent more injurious crashes, and a dramatically higher number of fatal crashes: six versus zero.
the cooling impact of a single healthy tree “is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 24 hours a day.”
communities that add 25 percent additional tree cover will reduce their stormwater by 10 percent.
How much better things would be if, in the 1990s, each household had planted a $150 tree!
“The first duty of the inhabitant of forlorn neighborhoods is to use all possible influence to have the streets planted with trees.”
Would it not be a regulation well deserving of the attention of the General Court to require every town to plant the sides of the public roads with forest trees?… The value of most farms would be raised ten or fifteen per cent by the addition of shade trees about the buildings and along the public road. [Moreover, trees] give the country an appearance of wealth, that nothing else can supply.… The most spacious and princely establishments without them appear covered with the most prison-like gloom.… A bald head is not comely, neither is a street seemly which is not well set with trees.
trees planted within fifty feet of houses in one Philadelphia neighborhood caused home prices to increase by 9 percent.
Comparing houses with and without nearby street trees, it found that an adjacent tree added 3 percent to the median sale price of a house, an uptick of $8,870—the equivalent of an additional small bedroom.
in Melbourne, for example, five hundred new street trees have been planted every year for the past seventeen years.
the District plants trees and abandons them for the residents to tend, a common strategy in the United States, and one that would be more effective if it were actually known to the residents. It took me three years to learn that I was my street tree’s keeper, and that was by accident.
a commitment to planting trees has to be matched with a commitment to keeping them alive.
Pedestrians need to feel safe and comfortable, but they also need to be entertained, or else those with a choice will choose to drive.
A determination to increase walking means not allowing the greening impulse to undermine the core qualities of urbanity that draw people downtown in the first place.
hidden parking boosts retail sales and property values.
When we built our house, I put a sittingheight wall on both sides, and a prominent sidewalk-hugging bench by the front door. You would be surprised how often someone sits there.
both Melbourne and Stockholm have adopted active facade policies. Melbourne’s code, for example, requires that “60 percent of street facades in new buildings along major streets must be open and inviting.”
We have walked a great distance to its front door but received no reward.
is capable of providing those medium- and small-scale details that engage people as they approach and walk by.
“Almost nobody travels willingly from sameness to sameness and repetition to repetition, even if the physical effort required is trivial.”
Getting the scale of the detail right is only half the battle; what matters even more is getting the scale of the buildings right, so that each block contains as many different buildings as reasonably possible.
a deep misunderstanding of the difference between city planning and architecture, such that most urban-design projects are seen as an opportunity to create a single humongous building.
“While even smaller units of design are encouraged, no more than 200 feet of continuous street frontage may appear to have been designed by a single architect.”
“Great Blight of Dullness.”
about faking variety, about creating the impression of multiple actors when control has unwisely been concentrated in the hands of too few powerful players.
naming a master developer who oversees the project but who is not the developer of the individual buildings.
The result, in true Small Is Beautiful practice, is the city of chipmunks, not of gorillas.
Green spaces in cities are a lovely, salubrious, necessary thing. But they are also dull, at least in comparison to shopfronts and street vendors.
But if the goal is to get people to embrace walking as a form of practical transportation, oversized greenways can actually be counterproductive.”
The oceans of air circulating about us, not our parks, keep cities from suffocating.
was fighting a dominant ethos that more green spaces make cities more healthy, when in truth their microcosmic appearance belies their macrocosmic impact.
we shouldn’t allow open space to rip apart the urban fabric of our walkable city centers.
it was desire to somehow magically merge city with country that created the environmental, social, and economic disaster that is sprawl.
as if there is some undiscovered way to improve the city by diluting its best qualities.
And we know that central among these qualities is the street life that is only possible in a truly urban environment, where there are more buildings than bushes.
great swaths of any significant metropolis are necessarily dedicated to activities that don’t and shouldn’t attract street life.
as if these modifications will create walking in a place where there is almost nothing to walk to.
the first question to ask before investing in walkability: where can spending the least money make the most difference?
on streets that are already framed by buildings that have the potential to attract and sustain street life. on streets that are already framed by buildings that have the potential to attract and sustain street life. In other words, places where an accommodating private realm already exists to give comfort and interest to an improved public realm.
of streets like this, where historic shopfronts and other attractive buildings line sidewalks that are blighted only by a high-speed, treeless roadway. Fix the street, and you’ve got the whole package
When you’re done, it’s still the auto zone and not worthy of our attention. Let it go.
This more mercenary approach to urban revitalization
In pedestrian crises, as in combat, the worst off must sometimes be sacrificed for the greater good.
streets that connect, requires the greatest amount of thought<…> Because, in any city’s downtown, there is a network of walkability, sometimes hidden, that is waiting to emerge. Coaxing it to the surface requires some careful observation and then a decisive design effort.
the anchors are <…> and any other use that generates significant foot traffic on a regular basis
doing so requires an explicit act of identification.
I study every street that has a chance of being walkable and I grade it in terms of its urban qualities. I ignore the street’s traffic characteristics, since they are simple to fix, and look only at comfort and interest: spatial definition and the presence of friendly faces. This effort produces a map in which the streets are colored from green through yellow to red based on their potential to attract pedestrian life.
an urban triage plan: streets are either in or out.
But it only takes a few blocks to create a reputation.
they tend to sprinkle the walkability fairy dust indiscriminately.
By trying to be universally excellent, most cities end up universally mediocre.
Walkability is likely only in those places where all the best of what a city has to offer is focused in one area. Concentration, not dispersion, is the elixir of urbanity.
The downtown is the only part of the city that belongs to everybody. It doesn’t matter where you may find your home; the downtown is yours, too. Investing in the downtown of a city is the only place-based way to benefit all of its citizens at once.
A beautiful and vibrant downtown, in contrast, can be the rising tide that lifts all ships.
a violent allergy to wasting time, and an intellectual generosity of truly historic proportion.
thanked for securing a grant that allowed me to take the time off to write.
Mother Gayle and brother Scott, essayists of the first rank, pored over every sentence and improved many.
both nodding at the intuitive and seemingly obvious wisdom presented, and shaking your head at why those basic principles of fixing our cities have eluded us for so long.”
walkable urbanism is still drivable, while drivable sub-urbanism is not walkable. Or, more accurately, in walkable urbanism, driving remains a viable option for those people with disposable income and time to spend in traffic, while in drivable sub-urbanism, walking is a practice undertaken only by the least advantaged people with no choice. 233
A study of expenditures in Baltimore showed that while each million spent on roads created about seven jobs, each million spent on pedestrian facilities generated eleven jobs, and each million spent on bike lanes created more than fourteen jobs
the number of elementary school–aged children driven to school in private vehicles has risen from 12 percent in 1969 to 44 percent in 2009
It has been estimated that Americans’ extra bulk costs the airlines a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of jet fuel annually”
More than 21 million Americans—that’s 7 percent of the population—have type 2 diabetes and it currently consumes about 2 percent of the gross national product.
Expecting to find a metabolic factor at work, he learned instead that the outcome was entirely attributable to physical activity. The people who got fatter made fewer unconscious motions and, indeed, spent (on average) two more hours per day sitting down
physical inactivity is associated with a “30 to 50 percent increase in coronary heart disease, a 30 percent increase in hypertension, and a 20 to 50 percent increase in strokes [as well as a] 30 to 40 percent increase in the risk of colon cancer and a 20 to 30 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer”
The principal distinction between these states, much more than miles driven, is urbanization. The five safest states average eighteen times the residential density of the five most deadly
The illusion of control that we have while driving gives us confidence that we are the masters of our own fate on the road. After all, in another study, 85 percent of drivers who were in the hospital recovering from accidents that they themselves caused rated their driving skills as “above average”
“those living in more walkable neighborhoods trusted their neighbors more; participated in community projects, clubs and volunteering more; and described television as their major form of entertainment less than survey participants living in less walkable neighborhoods”
a sedentary person’s risk of dying prematurely from any cause plummeted by nearly 20 percent if he or she began brisk walking (or the equivalent) for 30 minutes five times a week”
As of 2010, almost half of all U.S. electricity was generated by burning coal, which is about twice as much as came from the next most common source, natural gas
Electricity generation is also responsible for about 20 percent of all water consumption in the United States
GM armed the Nazis even after they had declared war on the United States <…>. Adolf Hitler awarded GM CEO James D. Mooney the Order of Merit of the Golden Eagle for his services in support of the Nazi regime.
stated in 1939 that “motorways must not be allowed to infringe upon the city”
The largest corporation is, of course, Walmart, whose entire business model is based on cheap driving and trucking. 272
“If You Build It, They Will Come.”
induced demand applies principally to the creation and widening of highways and arterial roads, as opposed to the creation of more intricate street networks through the insertion of small local streets.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
According to the company website, each “Zipcar takes at least 15 personally-owned vehicles off the road.” For a Zipcar member, the fixed costs—a twenty-five-dollar application fee and a sixty-dollar annual membership fee— are negligible compared to the marginal costs of hourly rental.
Despite The New York Times ’ 2010 exposé about engineers’ proclivities for terror—“in the ranks of captured and confessed terrorists, engineers and engineering students are significantly overrepresented” <…>—I have always found them pleasant enough to work with. Of course, they haven’t seen this book yet.
One British study of worldwide data found that road removals generally improve local economies, while new roads increase urban unemployment
eneral taxes in New Jersey transfer approximately $700 million from the general population to drivers every year
“From our limited information it appears that everywhere in the world, after some vehicle broke the speed barrier of 15 mph, time scarcity related to traffic began to grow”
“to quietly buy up the nation’s masstransit agencies and scrap the electric trains they operated. National City Lines could then replace the trains with buses made and fueled by the conspirators. In the process, it could reduce mass-transit service and promote automobile sales as a more convenient option to millions of consumers.”
extensions to public transit are not appropriate policies with which to combat traffic congestion”
was converted from four driving lanes into three driving lanes plus two ample bike lanes. As a result, the number of commute-time cyclists rose from 88 to 215 per hour.
I am a charter member of this organization, which over the past two decades has been laboring arduously in support of the ideals presented in this book.
how sight-triangle requirements make great streets illegal. In one trenchant drawing, Jacobs demonstrates how applying the American standard would wipe out one-third of the trees on Barcelona’s gorgeous Passeig de Gràcia
somebody’s discovery that back-in parking is actually safer than head-in, and a new movement is born. Now dozens of Main Streets nationwide have reintroduced back-in parking<…>and accidents are down, especially those involving bikes.
If residents are not accustomed to parallel parking—which is more difficult than back-in—and if almost all local parking is head-in at strip malls, then reverse parking may just be too big a stretch.
The ideal signal cycle timing is almost always sixty seconds or less. Longer signal cycles have long been favored by traffic engineers, who calculate that these contribute to system throughput. However, their calculations ignore the associated negative impacts of the speeding and road rage that result from drivers having to wait inordinately long times at stoplights, not to mention the jaywalking accidents.
While some local bike shops initially feared the competition, they are now celebrating a major uptick in sales, fueled by Capital Bikeshare renters who decide that they want to own.
was also the result of an urban design that failed to provide physical spaces for which tenants could feel a sense of ownership.
I was thrilled to discover that the trees we planted twenty years ago are already forming a complete canopy over many of the streets.
polled consumers interestingly rated products 30 percent higher for quality when those products were purchased on streets with good tree cover
in the hands of a truly skilled forester, streets can be planted with two or three species that appear almost identical yet have a distinct genetic makeup.
Surely this quote is something to keep in mind before giving him the key to your city
Battlefield triage involves withholding care from those patients very likely to either live or die and focusing resources principally on those whose fate could go either way.