What has prevented Walkable Urbanism, and how to fix our cities

Our streets don’t just happen.

They are designed.

For decades, the manuals for street design have been based on American highway engineering, in part based on really poor data and bad models.  And that’s even when well-intentioned, things get even worse when you add in ideological agendas.  Thanks to John Forester, the manual for road design excluded separated cycling facilities.  So no one could build them.

Jeff Tumlin (@jeffreytumlin) does a fantastic job of explaining how all these pieces fit together to give us the system we have today.  Highly recommend watching this video, it’s one of the single most influential things that has shaped my understanding of urban planning.  How we’ve failed at design.  How humans actually behave.  It’s the whole package of how motordom created the current reality, and how we can work to make better cities.

from blog post “Sex, Neuroscience and Walkable Urbanism” – The Video, with Jeff Tumlin

The video is from a January 10, 2013 public lecture (web page gone) at SFU.   You can see other videos at http://www.sfu.ca/continuing-studies/about/program-units/city-program/resources/videos.html

Jeff Tumlin presented in Ottawa, in April 2012.  David Reevely enjoyed it (Internet Archive).

You actually can’t really fight congestion, Tumlin argued. Or you can, but you’ll lose…. It’s well-established to the point of orthodoxy that once a road fills up, yes, you can widen it, but whatever improvements you see won’t last: you’ll just get more people driving on that fancy new widened road, and before long they’ll be moving at the same slow speed they were before.

The presentation deck was available but has now as usual disappeared.  It was Greener-Ottawa.pdf Greener Ottawa: Seven Free and Low-Cost Steps Ottawa Can Take to Leverage Rail Investments and Grow Healthier and Wiser – from Nelson Nygaard presentations (Internet Archive).

He recommended:

  1. Measure what matters
  2. Make traffic analysis work
  3. Fix the models
  4. Adopt good street design manuals
  5. Plant trees
  6. Bikes = economic development
  7. Manage & price parking

You could find an incredibly high-level summary of the planning summit ottawa·ca/planningsummit but no video or presentations were posted online and now there is no site at all.

It continues to baffle me that Ottawa brings very good people like Jeff Tumlin and Jan Gehl to speak, but even when video is taken (as it was in both cases) the video is never permanently posted online.  It’s hard to build much of an evidence chain if presentations, videos, and entire web subsites just disappear after a few years, if they’re ever captured at all.

1 thought on “What has prevented Walkable Urbanism, and how to fix our cities

  1. Pingback: making commuting delightful | Manifesto Multilinko 2

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