Monthly Archives: June 2009

Is Residential Land Use Incompatible with Non-Residential Development?

By Dom Nozzi

Isn’t it necessary to segregate noisy, smelly or potentially toxic office or industrial activity from residential areas?

It is absolutely true that activities that are toxic, noisy, or are associated with big truck or motor vehicle activity are incompatible with residential areas. But there are three things to know about this commonly-expressed objection to Smart Growth advocates calling for “mixed use” development.

First, such businesses have dramatically declined in number since the turn of the last century (with the exception of big-truck businesses), which makes zoning-based segregation much less necessary.

Unlike 100 years ago, it is fairly easy and common today to design most all businesses and offices to be compatible with residential areas. Why continue using an anachronistic regulatory scheme that was designed to confront problems that society faced 100 years ago, but are almost never faced today?

I suspect that the response from most elected officials is that maintaining the old system is a way to make misinformed, distrustful neighborhood residents less concerned about the re-emergence of community design mistakes we suffered from several decades ago.

But if we are paying more than lip service to making it feasible for people to walk or bike regularly, we need to get serious and largely dump zoning-based regulation to dramatically reduce trip distances. Fortunately, despite the strongly suburban value system of most all communities in America, a great many communities are slowly increasing the proportion of properties carrying a mixed-use zoning.

mixSecond, the new urbanist Smart Code recognizes the existence of locally-undesirable-land uses (LULUs). Despite what I’ve said above, there remain a relatively small number of business activities that are perhaps inherently incompatible with residential areas. The Smart Code therefore assigns such uses (airports are a good example) to “special districts” remote from the community. As a result, the Smart Code can provide a nearly complete elimination of the need to separate land uses, with the exception of a tiny fraction of uses.

Finally, even if it were true that we must have zoning-based separation for a large number of activities, such a need would be just another sign that our society is unsustainable (because it is inherently car-dependent). Unless we start building a more sustainable world, we’re heading for a train wreck.

 

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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.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

On-Street Parking and Bicycling in a Town Center

By Dom Nozzi

I admire the desire of many “transportation choice” advocates to urge town centers to provide for all forms of travel. This is particularly important in (what should be) a low-speed downtown environment.

For a downtown to be healthy for retail and all forms of travel, low-speed car travel is essential, and a “park once” environment must be created. In a downtown, that means that the pedestrian, not the bicyclist (or car or transit), must be the design imperative. If we “get it right” for the pedestrian downtown, every stakeholder tends to benefit: not just pedestrians, but bicyclists, transit, retail, residential, children, seniors, well-behaved motorists, the disabled and everyone else.

However, if we suboptimize bicycling by, say, installing in-street bicycle lanes or removing on-street parking, the unintended consequence is that most everyone loses, because a healthy, equitable community needs a compact town center (and perhaps other places) where the pedestrian is supreme. This is also true, of course, if we suboptimize cars (or even transit) in a town center.

I believe that bike lanes and the removal of on-street parking downtown serve to suboptimize bicycling — and I speak as a bicycle commuter.

How do we make the pedestrian the design imperative downtown? Some of the more important tactics include reducing dimensions, avoiding excessive provision of obtrusive surface car parking, increasing commercial intensities and residential densities, and obligating slow, attentive speeds by motorists.

Probably the most powerful, affordable way to achieve the above-mentioned tactics is on-street parking. Such parking effectively slows cars and obligates attentiveness by adding friction to the street. Such parking is also essential for healthy downtown retail. And such parking sometimes dramatically improves pedestrian safety by reducing the street crossing distance.

In a downtown, bike lanes tend to undercut each of those design objectives.

Donald Shoup’s “High Cost of Free Parking” book is perhaps the best book I’ve ever read in the field of planning/transportation (a must-read for all planners, designers and elected folks). In that book, Shoup clearly identifies excessive parking as an enormous problem in nearly all American communities. However, he points out that it is subsidized, underpriced OFF-STREET parking, required in excess by nearly all local governments, that is one of the most important problems in American cities.

Shoup is a strong advocate of on-street parking (especially when it is properly priced and therefore efficiently used). I believe he would agree with me that for nearly all cities (even those with too much parking), an extremely important objective is to substantially INCREASE the amount of on-street parking and substantially reduce the amount of off-street parking. And that as much downtown street frontage as possible be lined with on-street parking.

In a properly designed downtown, car speeds are low enough that it is not only safe and pleasant for pedestrians and retailers and residences. Car speeds are also low enough to permit safe and pleasant sharing of the travel lane by bicyclists. And in a downtown, for those bicyclists who are uncomfortable sharing even a slow-speed travel lane with cars, there tends to be nearby parallel lanes off the main street for the bicyclist.vancouver gastown

There are at least two important downsides for bicyclists when removing downtown on-street parking.

First, smaller retailers tend to suffer so much that empty storefronts result and retailers flee to more remote locations that are inconvenient/unsafe to walk or bicycle or bus to. In other words, bicyclists should be strong supporters of a healthy downtown retail/residential environment, in part because it promotes a compact community with short travel distances.

Second, unless travel lane width is dramatically reduced, bike lanes tend to add asphalt width to the main street. That can mean longer, more dangerous crossing distances for pedestrians, and higher speed and less attentive (and therefore more dangerous) car travel. The large speed differential between cars and bicyclists that higher-speed car travel creates is particularly hostile for bicycling.

Again, downtown designers must be careful not to suboptimize bicycle, transit or car travel downtown, since doing so tends to be detrimental to the pedestrian, which is the downtown design imperative. The irony for bicyclists calling for the removal of on-street parking downtown is not only that it is detrimental to bicycling. On-street parking removal downtown was (and still is) most loudly called for by the motorist lobby (which fought to increase downtown street widths and car speeds beginning about 85 years ago).

And for the record, I am a strong advocate of in-street bicycle lanes on most all major streets in a city. I believe, however, that they tend to be incompatible with a low-speed, human-scaled pedestrian-friendly downtown.

 

_________________________________________________

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.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Bicycling, Urban Design, Walking

Obligating Cars to Behave Themselves

By Dom Nozzi

How can we design communities to have cars behave themselves and thereby restore a quality community for people?

My remedy can be summarized by saying that we need to return to the timeless tradition of designing our communities to make people happy, not cars. In the downtowns of our cities, that means… Traffic calming. Human-scaled (low-speed) street dimensions, modest building setbacks, and modest vehicle sizes. Higher residential densities. An end to subsidized (free) parking — largely by eliminating local government laws that require new developments to provide off-street parking. Setting 2 or 3 lanes as the maximum size of roads within a city (which requires, of course, that cities begin an incremental road diet/travel lane removal campaign). Have motorists pay their own way for a change (congestion/toll fees and much higher gas taxes, pay-by-the-mile car insurance, etc.).outdoorCafe

In a healthy city, because of the excessive size and speed of cars, the motorist should feel like an inconvenienced intruder. The pedestrian should feel like a welcomed guest.

Currently and tragically, the reverse is almost always the case. Driving a motor vehicle should be a privilege rather than a (subsidized), God-given right.

Peter Norton, author of the magnificent and important Fighting Traffic, recommends that community and transportation choice advocates take the approach that “motordom” took 100 years ago: There must be an organized, united front promoting a consistent message in defense of designing cities for people, not cars. For transportation choice, not forced car dependency. As our Founding Fathers urged in 1776, Unite or Die…

Note, by the way, that it took America about 100 years to get us into this transportation & quality of life mess we are in. Therefore, there are no overnight, silver-bullet solutions.

We need to move on several fronts.

And expect a long-term campaign.  

1 Comment

Filed under Road Diet, Urban Design