Tag Archives: civility

Civility Needs to Go Viral

By Dom Nozzi

Civility needs to “go viral.”

Why?

Because in my experience, there has been a steep decline in civility in American society for several decades. And civility is one of the most essential elements for a culture that seeks to survive and thrive into the future. Without civility, a culture is on the road to collapse.

The first and most powerful step in restoring a reasonable level of societal civility in American society is to put our “stroads” on a road diet. This is necessary in several instances for every city in America.

 A “stroad” is a delightful term coined by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, and refers to those dangerous, multi-laned thoroughfares you encounter in nearly every city, town, and suburb in America. They’re what happens when a street (a place where people interact with businesses and residences, and where wealth is produced) is ruinously also designed to serve as a road (a high-speed route between productive places). They are enormously expensive to build and, ultimately, financially unproductive. They’re also very dangerous. And they are the futon of transportation” because, just as a futon is neither a particularly good bed nor a particularly good couch, a stroad is neither a particularly good road or a particularly good street.

Greenville makes this step obvious. Motorists are obligated to drive 15-25 mph smoothly on appropriately road dieted Main Street. This is contrasted with the 45-55 mph speeds motorists are allowed and enabled to drive on Greenville’s many stroads. Of course, on a stroad a motorist is not driving at those higher speeds smoothly. Instead, the stroad inevitably forces motorists to engage in “jack rabbit stop and go” travel, where motorists engage in short bursts of excessive speeds followed by frequently repeated stops and slow downs.

Despite the fact that nearly everyone expects a slow speed road to be frustrating and unpleasant to drive on (“WE ARE VERY BUSY AND NEED TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE FASTER!”), driving on Main Street in Greenville versus driving on the Greenville stroads leads to far better and more enjoyable motorist experiences.

On slow speed Main Street, nearly all drivers are more courteous, more calm, more relaxed, more happy and smiling, more polite, more well-mannered, more patient, and filled with civic pride.

The drive, even though slow in speed, FEELS like it goes by relatively quickly. This is because the drive is more aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. Some drivers don’t want the driving experience to end.

On higher speed stroads, by striking contrast, drivers are more hostile, angry, stressed, impatient, hot-tempered, and enraged at any fellow citizen who DARES to get in the way by driving or turning too slowly, and ashamed to live in a city with such an oversized, strip-commercial roadway blight (this is exemplified by the fact that no one in Greenville takes their out-of-town guests to show off the higher speed stroad, whereas many show off Main Street to their guests).

The drive, even though higher in speed, FEELS like it takes a relatively long time. This is because the drive is ugly, frustrating, and stressful. Drivers can’t wait to get off the stroad.

The unpleasant, stressful, angering, impatient, hostile, uncivil, short-tempered emotions induced by stroads spills over into the stroad-driving motorist’s life beyond the unpleasant stroad experience and into the realm of family life, work life, social life, and interactions with fellow neighbors and other citizens.

Stroads in Greenville include – but are not limited to – the following:

Augusta Avenue

Peter Hollis Boulevard

McDaniel Avenue

Academy Street

Stone Avenue

Buncombe Street

Rutherford Street

Richardson Street

Poinsett Highway

Pleasantburg Drive

Laurens Road

Mills Avenue

Church Street

In sum, converting stroads to streets is an effective way to substantially promote civility (and happiness!) in American society.

We start doing that by removing excessive numbers of lanes on stroads. In other words, treating the failing stroad with a life-giving road diet.

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Civility Needs to Go Viral

By Dom Nozzi

Civility needs to “go viral.”

Why?

Because in my experience, there has been a steep decline in civility in American society for several decades.

The first and most powerful step in restoring a reasonable level of societal civility is to put our big city “stroads” on a road diet. A “stroad” is a delightful term coined by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns, and refers to those dangerous, multi-laned thoroughfares you encounter in nearly every city, town, and suburb in America. They’re what happens when a street (a place where people interact with businesses and residences, and where wealth is produced) gets combined with a road (a high-speed route between productive places). They are enormously expensive to build and, ultimately, financially unproductive. They’re also very dangerous. And they are the futon of transportation” because, just as a futon is neither a particularly good bed nor a particularly good couch, a stroad is neither a particularly good road or a particularly good street.

Greenville makes this step obvious. Motorists are obligated to drive 15-25 mph smoothly on appropriately road dieted Main Street. This is contrasted with the 45-55 mph speeds motorists are allowed and enabled to drive on Greenville’s many stroads. Of course, on a stroad a motorist is not driving at those higher speeds smoothly. Instead, the stroad inevitably forces motorists to engage in “jack rabbit stop and go” travel, where motorists engage in short bursts of excessive speeds followed by frequently repeated stops and slow downs.

Despite the fact that nearly everyone expects a slow speed road to be frustrating and unpleasant to drive on (“WE ARE VERY BUSY AND NEED TO BE ABLE TO DRIVE FASTER!”), driving on Main Street in Greenville versus driving on the Greenville stroads leads to far better and more enjoyable motorist experiences.

On slow speed Main Street, nearly all drivers are more courteous, more calm, more relaxed, more happy and smiling, more polite, more well-mannered, more patient, and filled with civic pride.

The drive, even though slow in speed, FEELS like it goes by relatively quickly. This is because the drive is more aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. Some drivers don’t want the driving experience to end.

On higher speed stroads, by striking contrast, drivers are more hostile, angry, stressed, impatient, hot-tempered, enraged at any fellow citizen who DARES to get in the way by driving or turning too slowly, and ashamed to live in a city with such an oversized, strip-commercial roadway blight (this is exemplified by the fact that no one takes their out-of-town guests to show off the higher speed stroad, whereas many show off Main Street to their guests).

The drive, even though higher in speed, FEELS like it takes a relatively long time. This is because the drive is ugly, frustrating, and stressful. Drivers can’t wait to get off the stroad.

The unpleasant, stressful, angering, impatient, hostile, uncivil, short-tempered emotions induced by stroads spills over into the stroad-driving motorist’s life beyond the unpleasant stroad experience and into the realm of family life, work life, social life, and interactions with fellow neighbors and other citizens.

Stroads in Greenville include – but are not limited to – the following:

Augusta Avenue

Peter Hollis Boulevard

McDaniel Avenue

Academy Street

Stone Avenue

Buncombe Street

Rutherford Street

Richardson Street

Poinsett Highway

Pleasantburg Drive

Laurens Road

Mills Avenue

Church Street

In sum, converting stroads to streets is an effective way to substantially promote civility (and happiness!) in American society.

We start doing that by removing excessive numbers of lanes on stroads.

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The Incremental Uglification of Cities

By Dom Nozzi

There is an adage that has recently emerged that I really like: “I’m already against the next war.” I was reminded of this yesterday when we drove by the hideous modernist building going up on Canyon near the Transit Center here in Boulder Colorado. For me (and surely many others), “I’m already against the next modernist building being built.” Or “I’m already looking forward to that modernist building being demolished, even though the construction  has not finished yet.”

Shame on Council for not putting building design rules in place that would stop the incremental uglification of Boulder.

How to stop the descent into more ugly? Prohibit modernist design. Require timeless traditional design. We have a shining example of timeless right here in Boulder: The Hotel Boulderado. Despite the conventional wisdom, cities are allowed to require timeless design. And there are rules that make it possible.

My visits to the historic center of many European cities make this screamingly obvious. Like millions of tourists throughout the world, I fall in love with the splendor of the historic buildings. And am deeply saddened when I see some of those historic centers incrementally losing their lovable charm when awful modernist buildings that ignore context or basic rules of urban civility are painfully inserted into that historic fabric.

Admittedly, Boulder has very little in the way of an existing supply of historic buildings. But there is no reason the City could not obligate new buildings to use a timeless traditional design so we could incrementally move toward a more generally lovable ensemble of buildings in our town center (the new Elevations/Twitter bank building on Walnut near the Transit Center is an example of something new and timeless). After all, each modernist building that goes up makes Boulder incrementally more ugly and less loved…

A community has the right to promote the beauty of its public realm, and prohibit the degradation of the public realm.

Something else that saddens me: It seems nearly certain that what will ultimately be built (or retained) at the Alpine-Balsam redevelopment site will be largely if not completely ugly modern.

“There is nothing more dated than yesterday’s vision of tomorrow.”

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Appropriate and Inappropriate Noise in a Town Center

 

By Dom Nozzi

April 4, 2005

If we are striving to design a quality community, the level of ambient noise needs to vary based on your location in the community. If you desire a walkable, compact, urban lifestyle, you should expect higher levels of ambient noise, because a walkable lifestyle necessarily has more noise. Through compact concentration, activities occur in closer proximity — in other words, it is condensed in a smaller space. And because a walkable lifestyle means that there is a more vibrant public realm, there is more noise-producing “hustle and bustle.”

As we move away from the walkable core, into suburban areas, ambient noise expectations appropriately ratchet toward less noise. In rural and preserve areas out further still, we should expect an even quieter ambience.

I personally don’t mind the necessary, expected, traditional urban noises in the walkable core of a city, even though they tend to be relatively louder and more 24/7 than those in the suburban or rural areas. I am happy to accept higher ambient noise levels as an acceptable trade-off for better walkablility.

However, I believe it is entirely valid to object to noise pollution that is not a NECESSARY ingredient to a walkable city core. Over the past few decades, noise pollution has shot up noisepollution460significantly. Leaf blowers, parking lot vacuum trucks (at 3 am), emergency vehicle sirens (which tend to be louder, more numerous and more often used than in the past), an enormous growth in burglar alarms, boom boxes, high-decibel car stereos, etc., are proliferating throughout the nation.

[Much of the growth in noise, by the way, comes from a growth in what I would call “uncivil” behavior by citizens who increasingly disregard their fellow citizens and think only of themselves — and much of this incivility comes from the growing American abandonment, neglect and degradation of our public realm.]

I would insist that the above sources of noise are NOT what those of us living in walkable locations should passively accept as an inevitable part of living in a city. Each of these noise sources is creating a significant increase in stress levels for even those of normal hearing sensitivities, and all of them can be eliminated or substantially reduced without causing harm to the operation of a healthy, economically sustainable community.

The great cities of the world were, over the course of great periods of time, perfectly fine without any of these recent contributions to urban noise.

Yes, those living in walkable core areas should expect higher noise levels. But at some point, it is appropriate to draw the line. There is an exponential growth in noise pollution — particularly from sources that are not a necessary part of urbanism — and quality communities need to have the self-respect to say “enough is enough.”

 

 

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