"We've doubled the number of pedestrians in the street simply by widening the [sidewalk] and planting a few trees. Any city can do this." -Robert Adams, Director, Melbourne Design and Urban Environment
"If you are willing to give people the space they need, to give bicycles the space they need, then you can have a complete change of behavior." Jan Gehl, founding partner, Gehl Architects
Melbourne has done a phenomenal job creating a healthy, livable city. In a remarkably short period of time (10-15 years), city leaders transformed Melbourne into a vibrant city bustling with walkers, bikers, and public transit. The city is full of cozy, human-scaled nooks that have been created by using trees and other landscaping to define spaces and by converting old alleyways into charming corridors. To improve safety, they have focused on non-traditional law enforcement, including promotion of sidewalk businesses, as well as slightly elevated sidewalk seating areas to increase the number of eyes on the street.
Additional background information here:
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Steve Patterson is a tireless ally of true urbanism. For years, he has been maintaining the blog Urban Review STL where he examines everything from large-scale urban design plans to the minute, yet critical, details of creating livable places for people. Steve recently suffered a stroke that has forced him to trade in his trusty scooter for a trusty wheelchair. Now, probably more than ever, Steve is in tune with the critical role infrastructure (sidewalks, crosswalks, curbcuts, etc) plays in either facilitating or hindering safe travel for all. Steve's stroke hasn't slowed him down one bit, and his analysis is as sharp as ever.
We've had the pleasure of following Steve's work for years. Check it out. Beware, your city will never look the same once you get hooked on Urban Review STL!
Posted by Trailnet at 2:53 PM
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
In 2000 Malcolm Gladwell wrote about The Tipping Point -- it's about the way things change and the point at which things that have been shifting slowly start to change quickly and dramatically.
$4 and above gasoline may just be the tipping point needed to shift the way communities are built, as well as shift the decisions Americans make. Two recent articles in the New York Times caught our attention.
Mayors Advocate for Better Transit Systems
At the recent meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, 88% of the mayors, representing a total of 132 cities, said that public transportation ridership was increasing. The rising cost of gas is hitting City Hall's budget the same way it is hitting citizens' budgets--city budgets were created with fuel costs forecasted at $2/gallon, not $4/gallon. As a result, 90% of the mayors were actively working to reduce the amount of gas guzzled by city vehicles, including encouraging city employees to do more walking and altering the operations of city departments to increase efficiency: less trips and better route planning. As much as we hope our elected officials will proactively be champions of walkability and bikeability, it seems that strained city budgets may, in fact, be the tipping point. Call your mayor and ask them what they are doing to address this issue locally. Read the full NYT story:
Rethinking the Suburbs and Exurbs
Up until this point, cheap oil has made it possible for people to live 30, 40, even 60 miles from their workplace. Most long distance commuters complain about the time they spend in their cars, stuck in traffic, and away from family. They don't like it, yet they tolerate it. As a matter of fact, cheap oil combined with Americans' willingness to tolerate such long commutes has facilitated decades of terrible urban planning and urban sprawl. First came suburbs. Then more suburbs beyond those suburbs. Then even more suburbs. Finally, the suburbs were so far away that they couldn't be called suburbs anymore and were coined "exurbs". As a result, urban areas throughout the country rapidly lost population, leaving behind virtual ghost towns. Gas prices may be the straw that breaks the camels back, draws people back into higher density urban areas, and re-invigorates good urban planning. Read the full NYT story:
Posted by Trailnet at 11:18 AM
Friday, June 13, 2008
The LA Director of Planning, Gail Golderg, AICP, speaks about how this has become not only a saying within the planning department, but a community mantra. The city broadcasts this mantra far and wide, and community members hold the city accountable to this mantra at public planning meetings. Goldberg believes the whole community is better for it because the quality of planning is greatly elevated as a result. In most cities, few people understand what good planning should look like, unfortunately this includes folks in many planning departments. This mantra has really helped educate the public and create a foundation of planning values in Los Angeles. It has strengthened the community’s understanding and engagement in the creation of quality spaces. Every community should consider these elements when planning. Does your city do real planning?
Demand a walkable city
Offer basic design standards
Require density and transit
Eliminate department bottlenecks
Advance homes for every income
Locate jobs near housing
Produce green buildings
Landscape in abundance
Arrest visual blight
Nurture planning leadership
Identify smart parking requirements
Narrow road widenings
Get project input early
For more detail on these 14 points, download the full pdf of DO REAL PLANNING here or copy and paste the link below:
The planning principles that were presented at this conference and are being implemented by folks throughout the country stand in stark contrast to much of the planning (or perhaps lack thereof) that takes place throughout the St. Louis region. With gas prices above $4/gallon and not going down any time soon and increasing economic pressures on families throughout our region, it is becoming increasingly important that we do real planning. It is the best way that any region can support long-term social and economic health.
Posted by Trailnet at 6:20 PM
The new Director of Planning for the City of Los Angeles, Gail Goldberg, AICP, gave a presentation at the recent International Making Cities Livable Conference that struck us. Now if you've ever been to Los Angeles, you might be struck too: struck by the fact that Los Angeles HAS a city planner. Despite the fact that "Los Angeles" and "urban planning" are rarely used in the same sentence, we are confident that Goldberg's philosophy has the potential to completely transform LA and the rest of the country if it catches on.
Goldberg was formerly the Planning Director for San Diego where she and her team focused on creating a series of interconnected "urban villages." This strategy focuses on:
-Targeting compact growth in existing centers and corridors
-Creating a network of walkable, mixed-use village centers connected by transit
-Providing vibrant, engaging, playful public spaces
-Providing a diversity of housing options (income-levels and sizes)
Goldberg stressed the importance of adopting a policy plan to help guide planning and development. The policy plan is basically just a set of values/rules that helps ensure development activity creates the types of communities the planning department envisioned. For example, the policy plan could include form-based zoning or street design standards. Form-based zoning simply specifies the form of things (sizes and shapes) and not necessarily the use--think of old towns that have corner stores and living space above every storefront. And street design standards specify how streets are built (with or without sidewalks, bike lanes, etc). Form-based zoning also helps ensure that development is consistent and creates a sense of place. Form-based zoning helps ensure you get this:
and NOT this:
Goldberg also stressed that the policy plan is useless without an action plan to go with it. Don't just outline the policy, but create and execute a plan to make it reality.
To this end, Los Angeles has adopted:
-Citywide urban design principles
-Neighborhood design principles (different from one neighborhood to the next to help keep the historic and distinct sense of place that exists)
-A walkability checklist (here is a different walkability checklist)
-New street design standards
-Streetscape requirements (create pleasant, human-scale streets)
-A focus on reducing parking and promoting alternatives transportation
Posted by Trailnet at 4:47 PM
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Caption: a highly walkable, vibrant district. Notice how the wide crosswalk gives pedestrians clear priority.
A team of three Trailnet Staffers:
Executive Director, Ann Mack
Director of Community Programs, Cindy Mense
Active Living Program Manager, Phil Valko
attended the International Making Cities Livable Conference in Santa Fe, NM, June 2-5. The conference was focused on “Designing the Healthy City” with a special focus on children. It could not have been a better fit for Trailnet's work. The conference was a very multi-disciplinary conference, much like the groups that Trailnet works with throughout the region, with representatives from city councils, planning departments, public health officials, developers, green builders, not-for-profit folks, and more.
It was a fascinating 4 days, and we are bringing back many great ideas to incorporate into our work in the St. Louis region. As we met leaders from across the world, it was immediately clear that there is a growing international movement to create livable cities that:
- promote resident health
- foster a strong sense of community
- are economically vibrant and sustainable
- accommodate and maintain quality housing for people of all economic levels
- conserve precious resources (green design)
- encourage creativity and playfulness
All these things are becoming increasingly important as gas prices continue to rise and America keeps getting fatter and grumpier.
Throughout the course of the next few days / weeks we will be posting stories, ideas, and inspiration from the conference. We've invited the folks we met in Santa Fe to send us their ideas and inspiration to post here, as well. Check back soon!
Posted by Trailnet at 10:27 PM
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
The League of Illinois Bicyclists recently created a video to outline the rules for cars and bicycles to safely share roadways. The video is narrated by professional racer, Robbie Ventura, one of Lance Armstrong's former teammates on the US Postal Service Team.
Check out the Video HERE or cut and paste this link:
Posted by Trailnet at 3:00 PM