Here is an excerpt from the recently released book Walkable City by Jeff Speck.
The discussion of walkability is necessary because, since midcentury, whether intentionally or by accident, most American cities have effectively become no-walking zones. In the absence of any larger vision or mandate, city engineers – worshiping the twin gods of Smooth Traffic and Ample Parking – have turned our downtowns into places that are easy to get to but not worth arriving at.
Outdated zoning and building codes, often imported from the suburbs, have matched the uninviting streetscape with equally antisocial private buildings, completing a public realm that is unsafe, uncomfortable, and just plain boring.
As growing numbers of Americans opt for more urban lifestyles, they are often met with city centers that don’t welcome their return. As a result, a small number of forward-thinking cities are gobbling up the lion’s share of post-teen suburbanites and empty nesters with the wherewithal to live wherever they want, while most midsized American cities go hungry.
I thought this was pretty dead-on analysis of so many cities that I have been to recently. It seems even more relevant after attending a planning session dedicated to Gen Y/Millennials last night. It’s really not that hard of a problem to figure out, and it starts with making a great place. As the author states:
“Get walkability right and so much of the rest will follow.”