Monthly Archives: May 2006

Where We Stand on Walkability Issues

A Manifesto

 By Dom Nozzi

In town centers, the pedestrian is the design imperative

 We are an organized local group which strives to protect and promote a walkable lifestyle as its design imperative. The association believes that future development in areas of our community intended to be walkable should make walkability the primary emphasis of design. It is the lynchpin for the quality of life in the walkable areas of our community, and the protection and enhancement of property values.


Given this overriding design premise, our group has adopted the following manifesto which, to the extent possible, should be followed in all actions taken by the public and private sector for projects in the areas that the community intends to preserve and promote as walkable.


Most imperatively, improving walkability (and civic pride, comfort, convenience and sociability) means scaling down spaces in places we intend to be walkable. This “human-scaled” need acknowledges that in American cities, our walkability problem is that we have too much space. Too much distance. Not that we have too much in the way of parks or squares or plazas or other “open spaces,” but that we have buildings that are set back too far from sidewalks. Too many “sea of asphalt” parking lots. Roads that contain too many wide travel lanes. Too much distance between the home and the corner store.


union4Our first and most important task for creating the walkability that people the world over love in places like Rome, Siena, Paris, and Venice, is to create human-scaled city spaces. A large number of roads need to be put on a “road diet” by removing travel lanes and calming down (slowing) the speed of cars so that streets are welcoming, safe and sociable. Buildings need to be pulled up to the streetside sidewalk. Parking lots need to be shrunk in size—preferably by replacing some of them with buildings buzzing with activity, and moving more of them to on-street parking spaces. Streets need to be gracefully enveloped by street trees. Houses need to be mixed with shops and offices.


Each of these design practices were followed for most of human history (in America, up till approximately World War II). It is time to start returning to that tradition.


Neighborhood Streets in or near Town Centers


In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. Streets should be two-way. Existing one-way streets should be restored to two-way operation.

B. Streets should be modest in width. Turning radii should be modest in size.

C. On-street parking should be encouraged to the extent possible.

D. Design speeds should be relatively modest.

E. Emergency service and public service vehicle needs should be secondary to the quality of life and life safety needs.

F. Particularly in areas affected by spillover parking, parking should be priced/metered, designed for 85% occupancy, and the revenue returned to neighborhoods for neighborhood


Main Streets in Town Centers


In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. These streets should be no more than 3 lanes in size. When larger, such streets should be “road dieted” down to 3 lanes.

B. To promote permeability and walkability, mid-block crossings should be designed at regular intervals in locations near walkable neighborhoods.

C. Traffic signals are preferably post-mounted and should be relatively modest in height.

D. Design speeds should be relatively modest.

E. To the extent possible, when such streets have underlying cobblestone or brick, such historic underlayerment should be restored.

F. Turning radii for these streets should be relatively modest.

G. The maximum amount of on-street parking should be installed, and parking meters used to achieve an 85% occupancy rate. Revenues from these meters should be used for downtown improvements.

H. To the extent possible, these streets should contain raised medians.


Street Lights


In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. Street lights should be relatively modest in height and historic in character.

B. Street lights should be full cut-off.

C. Street lights should maximize full color spectrum, such as Halogen.

D. Because they are the most invisible color in the landscape, street light structures (and other public equipment) should typically be black in color.




In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. As soon possible, the city should fill remaining sidewalk gaps in neighborhoods.

B. Sidewalk gap filling should be a significantly higher priority than sidewalk repair.


Building disposition along Town Center Main Streets


In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. Buildings along main streets should butt up to the sidewalk, face the sidewalk with a main entrance, contain sufficient windows along the sidewalk, and have a first floor that is at least 10 feet in height.

B. Buildings should be parallel to the street, rather than rotated.

C. Buildings along such streets should be encouraged to be at least two stories in height and mixed in use (commercial and residential).

D. High levels of building ornamentation should be encouraged.

E. Auto parking should never be in front of a building.


Homeless Population


In general, because the homeless/panhandling population is an important impediment to walking, the following practices should be employed:

A. Minimize/reduce the number of free meals provided in town centers.

B. Enforce the “no sleeping in public parks” law.

C. Use park facilities that discourage sleeping.


Emergency Vehicle Sirens [which tend to be more of a problem in compact, walkable, central areas]


In general, the following principles shall be used :

A. Because there are relatively few cars on streets late at night, and people are trying to sleep, the city should employ the strategy used by other cities: Siren use should be significantly less frequent between 11 pm and 6 am. One way to do that at such hours is to reduce use of sirens between street intersections.


Police Helicopter Fly-Overs [which tends to be more of a problem in compact, walkable, central areas]


In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. The city should terminate its use of a police helicopter, or significantly reduce how often it is employed.

B. If deemed necessary, fly-overs shall be relatively high altitude to minimize noise pollution.


Street Trees


In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. The city should install and maintain a dense, formally aligned, large, canopy trees along streets.

B. Trees of the same species or at least the same size and shape should be used along individual streets. Tree diversity should only be established, if necessary, from street to street.

C. Tree pruning along power lines should be consistent with practices described in “Trees in Urban Design,” by Henry Arnold (1985).




In general, the following principles shall be used:

A. To the extent possible, and as soon as possible, existing surface parking lots in and near town centers should be converted to buildings.

B. Multi-family housing developments in and near walkable neighborhoods should “unbundled” their parking so that the cost of the parking is not included in the cost of the housing.

C. Parking requirements should be relaxed in and near walkable neighborhoods.



Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.


Or email me at: dom[AT]

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