Friday, November 18, 2011

Car friendly OR people friendly cites: can't do both.

Car Friendly
We've all tried to cross an über busy street, while walking, near the Wal-Mart(s) in town or can imagine it. The street is screaming with traffic (mostly single occupancy private vehicles) and it seems the only way you can crossis to walk to the stop light (if there is one near) and / or running across the wide street in a life-threatened dash. There may be a sidewalk and there may not - in any case walking is an after thought, if a thought at all, to the designers. You can almost feel like you're breaking the law and waiting for the police to stop you and ask what you're doing ... Dude! Where's my car?

People Friendly
On the other side of things, you may be in a quant little district or downtown area - perhaps sitting outside enjoying a refreshing drink with friends - and you decide to leave. It's easier to get across the street; perhaps there are curb extensions and other traffic calming installments. It's certainly an easier and a much more pleasant place to walk. If you're lucky, perhaps the street is completely closed to people inside of automobiles. You feel at home and a part of the community. If you were in a car, you would want to park it and get out. It's a place for people outside of cars!

Can't Have Both
That's where Enrique Peñalosa comes into the equation. He made a name for himself as the mayor of Bogota, Columbia in the early 2000s. He removed parking, took away lanes for automobiles, installed bus rapid transit, and created a car free day that takes place one time per year - on a week day. This guy makes a lot of sense to me. His basic argument is that we can build cities for cars, or we can build them for people, but we can not do both (think of the two examples above). We must first decide what we want and whether we want a city like Houston or Amsterdam. We must then have the VISION and COURAGE to follow through with that vision.

Watch an interview:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

There was a different option for cars in cities

In the 1920s, automobiles became more prevalent in US cities. Planners began to see the need for higher capacity roads throughout the '20s and '30s. They made mostly multi-modal street plans. Instead of major highways (inner city interstate), the planners of the day proposed multiple highways within the cities within an integrated system of hierarchal roads.

The highest level "super highway" would have included pedestrian, rail, and cars.

Because all of these early plans were funded with local taxes, there was an emphasis on using transportation to work with land use in what we now call "transportation oriented development." Por ejemplo, shops and higher densities near the train stops. Then, came along the gas tax. It was seen as a way to pay for infrastructure, but there was push back against using it for anything other than automobile infrastructure (because they paid the tax).

The gas tax is mostly controlled by the states and federal governments. And at that level, they don't like to give away money without accountability and some "quality control." There-go, we have the beautiful uniform interstate highway system. And thanks to the downtown businesses desire for a connection to the suburbs, the interstate highways became inter and inner metro connection.

With all of the displacement, divided neighborhoods, and automobile traffic that came with the downtown freeways the push to remove them has grown and places like Portland have turned down proposed highways and even removed sections from the center. Transit-oriented development is the new buzz word and it's with good reason. Sometimes we were right the first time.

Read more in this article.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Form-based codes

I just started this blog as an output for all of the different aspects of urban planning that I have been coming across and ideas that relate. I have been into urban planning since I was a child and did not understand why the cars had a place on the road and people ... but nowhere for bikes. I thought, "What a crack!!!" I was nine.

Well, I've grown and I'm still exploring many aspects of design, transportation, public engagement, justice, nature, economic development within the urban framework.

Today, I'll start with one of favorite possibilities which has a lot of potential: Form-Based Codes.

Where zoning tends to look at cities on paper, Form-Based Codes seem to account for framing the public realm. It's been used for centuries all over the world. The Greeks used it during their heyday, the Spanish used it in the Laws of the Indies (Leyes de Indias). In the United States zoning came around and some-how we've lost much of it -- until the New Urbanists came around in the '80s. Muchas gracias to them!

Image Source

Check out to learn more!