Tag Archives: charm

Boulder Junction compared to Amsterdam

By Dom Nozzi

June 5, 2017

 

A comparison of Boulder Junction in Boulder CO (image on left) and a street we stumbled upon during our recent trip to Amsterdam (right).Amsterdam, May 8, 2017 compared to Bldr Junction

Note the walkable, comfortable, human-scaled, romantic character of the Amsterdam street compared to the new street in Boulder. Boulder Junction is a new town center in Boulder intended to be compact and walkable, but the center fails to provide a comfortable, enclosed, walkable human scale.

Open space that is too vast, setbacks that are too large, and streets that are too wide.

If we can generalize the Boulder design experience with that of much of America – and I think we can fairly do so — this comparison clearly shows that Americans have failed to learn how to build walkable places in recent decades. Or find the political will to do so, since much of the unwalkable design was requested by citizens who do not know the ingredients of quality urbanism and quality streets. Citizens tend to request large building setbacks, low densities, oversized roadways, and excessive open spaces.

In part, this is done to seek to retain or restore convenient, comfortable car travel. Failing to create quality urbanism, then, is a signal that Boulder is much more of a car culture than a walking (or transit or bike) culture.

Efforts to promote happy car travel, ironically, worsens car travel as such efforts result in increased per capita car travel, which crowds roads and parking lots. And worsens the quality of life (and safety) for people — particularly people not in cars.

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Filed under Sprawl, Suburbia, Transportation, Urban Design, Walking

Improving Richmond Virginia

By Dom Nozzi

April 23, 2008

In the spring of 2008, I served on a volunteer citizen team offering suggestions to the city of Richmond about improving the city.

As I noted at one of the meetings, I wanted the team to consider recommending strategies that would attract and retain a high-quality workforce.

I urged the team, among other things, to “think outside the box” a bit, as was stated by someone during the introductory comments at an earlier meeting.

I am interested in promoting the attraction and retention of a quality workforce (along the lines of Richard Florida and his Creative Class) via quality urban design. I believe one important way that can be effectively done, as Florida would surely agree, is by restoring and nurturing a charming, walkable, hip, vibrant urban experience for those who might consider living and working in Richmond.

I wanted the team to recommend what I would call a “Think Outside the Box Urban Design Toolkit”. Elements could be such things as:

  1. Have the City start incrementally uncovering the goldmine that is found under many of the asphalt streets in the urban area. Namely, daylighting the brick and cobblestone that remains hidden by asphalt.
  1. Urge a speedy and comprehensive implementation of the impressive, quality-inducing downtown master plan prepared by the Dover-Kohl consultants.
  1. Identification, restoration, protection, or creation of a charming, walkable, community-building, civic pride-promoting town center or neighborhood. Is Richmond Cary St downtown Jun06there, in other words, a “there there” in Richmond and its surrounding “Edge Cities” that is unique, and a source of civic pride?

The first item might entail meeting with, say, the City traffic engineer to determine the practicality of incrementally doing this in appropriate locations. The second item perhaps involves meeting with City Planning Staff. The third item would possibly mean having the team visit examples of a walkable town center or urban neighborhood that may exist or be planned in Richmond and surrounding Edge Cities.

For Richmond, as the Crupi report indicates, this could include Shokoe Slip and Shokoe Bottom. Additionally, it could include the Fan District, perhaps.

Richmond can have a wonderful future. If it focuses on promoting walkable charm.

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Filed under Urban Design, Walking

The Persistent Difficulty of Creating Walkable, Lovable Places

Why is it so difficult to create walkable places? Places that we love?

I am convinced a primary cause is that we are trapped — even in Boulder, Colorado — in a self-perpetuating, downwardly spiraling, growing dependence on travel by car.

Many talk out of both sides of their mouths: We want to promote bike/walk/transit. But we also tragically and wrongly think we can simultaneously achieve free-flowing happy cars with plenty of free parking.

We naively think we can attain the latter with very low, dispersed densities. We forget, though, that very low, dispersed densities make bike/walk/transit nearly impossible for nearly all of us.

In Boulder, too many have made the terrible mistake of equating happy cars with quality of life, thinking it will allow us to retain “small town charm.” Instead, it will move us closer to becoming more like Houston.

Livable places and happy cars are diametrically opposite in so many ways.

“A city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can’t be both.” – Enrique Peñalosa

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Filed under Bicycling, Sprawl, Suburbia, Transportation, Urban Design, Walking

Designing a Street for Greatness

By Dom Nozzi

When I think about designing or testing a street for greatness, I generally ask three questions:

1. Is the street charmingly human-scaled?

A great street, for me, features a very modest street width from curb to curb. The “curb radius” of the intersection is also essential. One of the most NE 3rd & 3rd2common crashes experienced by someone walking across an intersection is a person who is struck by a right-turning vehicle at the intersection. A wide (large) curb radius typically induces high-speed turning movements by motorists. Creating a turning (curb) radius which results in a tight turn movement by the vehicle will reduce turning speeds, and shortens the crossing distance for the person walking.

A street with charm and human scale also features an uninterrupted fabric of permeable, 24-hour buildings, which creates a sense of enclosure by butting up to the sidewalk. On-street parking layers both sides of the street. Added (and often quite important) bonuses are a framing canopy of street trees, and a street that is brick or cobblestone. Very little is more effective in creating romantic charm than brick or cobblestone.

2. Does the street design obligate well-behaved motorist travel?

In my opinion, there is very little that is more important for city street design than obligating slower-speed, attentive, patient, courteous driving by motorists. For these reasons, I tend to enthusiastically endorse traffic engineer Hans Monderman’s naked streets concept. The lack of well-behaved of driving, when streets are not designed to obligate such driving, is exceptionally toxic to cities.

Because of this, my favorite streets tend to be give-way streets. Two-way streets (with on-street parking) are so narrow that motorists are compelled to drive slowly, attentively, and courteously.

3. Is the street a complete street?

Obviously, a great street should be designed to create transportation choices. A “complete street” is one that is designed to be used comfortably, conveniently and safely by all forms of travel.

4. Is the street regularly active?

A great street should contain large volumes of pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the day and night. Such regular activity makes the street enjoyable, sociable, and safe.

Sure, there are great streets that don’t score well on these three questions. But I am convinced that they are great despite this.

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Filed under Bicycling, Road Diet, Urban Design, Walking