The evidence is in. People are longing for walkable, sociable neighborhoods.The 20th century was marked by a global attitude towards embracing the new, modern era and casting out the old. The 21st century is quickly becoming a time to reclaim our lost traditions, connect better with each other and use our advanced technologies in ways that are much more, well, human.
If you need convincing, look elsewhere. (personally, I suggest starting here) If instead you want a successful walkable neighborhood then this is the place to begin. Here you'll find direct, honest analysis as to what works and what does not.
For more than two decades I've extensively studied what actually works to make cities more walkable and sociable. This has been far more than an academic exercise. I've worked with clients in cities of every size, measured and tested ideas myself and traveled the globe to observe what is universal and what is unique. It's safe to say: this has been my passion for many, many years.
The result of all of this study is that I've been able to sift through the many theories, ideas and principles in the fields of urban planning, design and architecture. This recipe, in 11 easy steps, is my guide toward making life better for any city wanting to make an effort. It's geared primarily towards an American audience, since that is where I live and work. And, most especially it's geared towards those places that aren't the eight or ten big cities that get all the press and attention.
Four of the eleven steps are the most critical and are presented here for your interest. If you do nothing at all, do these four things. But then, going only part of the way will only get you a C. If you want an A, you'll need to buy the booklet and apply the ideas yourself. I hope you enjoy and always appreciate your thoughts and questions.
Attractive buildings and improved streets simply aren’t enough. People need enjoyable, relaxing places to socialize. Call them parks, squares, plazas or whatever your like. Just make sure to create and nurture them. But (there’s always a but) you can’t just locate them anywhere there’s space.
Humans want places to hang out away from the noise and smell of vehicles, but they also want to see and be seen. We want to enjoy that adult beverage, show off a wedding dress or just linger and people watch. Having quality public space in and of itself is good, but the secret sauce is making sure it’s also in the right location.
Biking isn’t a superfluous method of getting around for sociable, walkable places. It’s an essential ingredient. The problem is that we’ve treated bicycles as a nuisance instead of as a legitimate form of transportation. The results: our streets are hostile to bikes and most people don’t ride.
Want people to walk more in your city or town? Make it easy for them to bike as well. Very easy. Encourage and provide real, modern bicycle infrastructure. And remember, if it’s not safe enough for your mom to ride then you’ve missed the point.
Saying no is easier said than done. But it’s something we all learn to do. Just like all restauranteurs are not created equal, neither are all developers. Some really get it and want to serve your market and long-term interests. Others care nothing about your goals, and actively try to subvert them.
That’s why cities need rules. Good rules. Rules designed specifically for walkable places. Today we have a tool designed for this purpose called form-based codes. If you don’t have some version of a form-based code for your walkable neighborhoods, you’re already working with a flawed recipe. Put a good code in place; make it fair and legible; and make it easy for people to do the right thing.
Young people are not the be-all, end-all for urban living but they are important. Young people bring life, creativity and newness. They live outdoors more often than those of us that are older, and they are more open to trying new things. Older people like being around the energy young people bring. The opposite is not necessarily true.
Cities need life to thrive, and young people create life. They bring that extra bit of flavor we love. When you have an opportunity, seize it and actively recruit young people to your city or town.