Monday, February 4, 2008

The Walkable Neighborhood

Walkability is fundamental to the well-being of a community.

The walkable neighborhood, by nature, has a certain geometry. In contrast to the linear layout of sprawl, the walkable neighborhood is centralized.

Services and work opportunities group closely in the center of the New American Village, and housing surrounds this nexus in more or less a concentric ring. Residences are all within walking distance, with denser housing closest to the center.

You may say "this sounds like nostalgia."

Not at all.

The walkable neighborhood is not the property of "tradition" - it is an eternal concept that works historically, currently, and will continue to work in the future.


Because the walkable neighborhood is not a style, it is an organizing system, and this system is most responsive to the human condition.

The benefits:

Health. Studies show people who live in walkable communities weigh less. America's obesity problem is in part due to how suburbs have developed over the past 50 years. The automobile made it possible to develop homogeneous swaths of housing with no services nearby. With no place to walk, and no sidewalks, walking fell out of fashion. Heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes have increased dramatically in these no-walk neighborhoods.

The bottom line. The walkable community gives you back your commuting time. And with gas at $3.00 a gallon, its easy to realize a substantial savings in travel costs. Instead of driving 30 minutes across town for one task then 30 minutes around town for another, walk 5 to 10 minutes to work, to the grocery store, to the library, to school. In the village center, everything is easily accessible to pedestrians.

Cultural enrichment. The walkable neighborhood creates infinite opportunities to meet and communicate with your neighbors in the normal course of the day. (There is a fundamental difference between running into your neighbor in a car and running into your neighbor on foot!) Conversations and familiarity with neighbors resulting from chance and certain encounters fosters cultural enrichment and naturally supports a strong sense of community.

Does this mean we must give up our cars?

No. We love our cars. Cars give us absolute freedom of movement and are very much a part of our way of life. In the New American Village, pedestrians and automobiles co-exist. Every walker is a car NOT on the road. Traffic snarls become non-existent, thus bringing about a balance that affords safety to the citizen on the street.

So why is strip development so popular? We'll talk about that later in the week.

1 comment:

Diane MacEachern said...


Check out the great projects the Green Streets initiative in Cambridge, MA has underway. You'll find a lot of kindred souls there.

Diane MacEachern,