Kindle Jeff Speck ð Walkable City How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a ð

Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive And he has boiled it down to one key factor walkability The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks vital mass transit and a vibrant pedestrian friendly urban core But in the typical American city the car is still king and downtown is a place that's easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at Making walkability happen is relatively easy and cheap; seeing exactly what needs to be done is the trick In this essential new book Speck reveals the invisible workings of the city how simple decisions have cascading effects and how we can all make the right choices for our communities Bursting with sharp observations and real world examples giving key insight into what urban planners actually do and how places can and do change Walkable City lays out a practical necessary and eminently achievable vision of how to make our normal American cities great again


10 thoughts on “Walkable City How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Time

  1. says:

    This was fascinating I wish I could talk about it with someone but I'm pretty sure most people's eyes would glaze over if I started going on about public transit bike lanes and the amazing world of parking meter policy Their loss Walkable City should be reuired reading for holders of public office city planners architects civic engineers environmentalists local business owners people who work in public health and safety people who work in economic development and really anyone who wants to understand how we can stop depending so much on cars and turn our cities into vibrant thriving enjoyable places to live and work I currently live in a walkable urban environment but come from an unwalkable hometown and this book has changed the way I look at just about everythingWhat most surprised me about this book though is how entertaining it is Once I got into it I hated to stop reading and couldn't wait to get back to it It was almost like it was the latest Dan Brown thriller except that unlike a Dan Brown thriller this book was actually good And important I can't stress enough how important it is In fact while I did have a few minor uibbles with the way Speck made some of his arguments I've decided not to describe them here this book is so important that I don't want to do anything to discourage anyone from reading it I will say though that I wish he had provided some practical advice at the end for the layperson His plan has a lot of moving parts How do we as the citizens of a town or city that could use some of what this book is prescribing actually go about convincing our public officials to implement these steps? Just a short chapter with some suggestions resources andor sample letters would have been helpful Still and all though this was a great and important did I mention important? read I won this through Goodreads First Reads and am very glad I did and I sincerely hope this book and its ideas find the audience they deserve for all of our sakes


  2. says:

    Must read for anyone interested in healthy cities Very easy to read for non specialists but does not feel superficial or dumbed down either Favorite part was the chapters on parking Very sobering how much outdated andor suburban parking reuirements and road safety codes control the basic functioning of US cities


  3. says:

    Surprising amount of information on why our cities are formed the way they are the forces that keep them that way and some suggestions on how to change thatWe all love walkable cities don't we? Those uaint old towns of Europe Manhattan San Francisco Castro street in Mountain View Lincoln Street in San Jose I will never forget the two years I spent in Munich and how that contrasts with the rest of my life in the southwest We all know it is the car that shapes our cities into sprawling suburbs which are too sparsely populated to be walkableSpeck starts the book with 65 pages on why walking and bike riding is a good idea for health reasons diabetes the environment safety I suppose he had to start making a strong justification but if you already know you would like a walkable city you could probably skip section 1 and move right on to section 2The heart of the book is the ten steps to walkability and he devotes a well written chapter to each1 Put cars in their place The ONLY report universally reuested for any city planning is a traffic study I recently attended a community meeting about a zoning plan and the main conversation was an angry citizen who worried only about how cars get in an out of the neighborhood Everyone hates sitting in a traffic jam; there is only one dominant agenda try to prevent all traffic jams Walkability studies and pleasant surroundings studies are all too absent we collectively seem to forget about thoseSpeck introduces the principle of Induced Demand the idea that if you build a bigger road then people get cars and the roads remain just as full Bigger highways mean traffic What is not obvious is the converse remove the highway and congestion gets lower He has a number of examples where highways have been removed and the result is a much nicer environment He even has some evidence that roads narrowed from 3 lanes to 2 lanes actually still carry the same amount of traffic I am skeptical of this however I do recognize that complex systems behave in non intuitive ways and his argument aligns with the idea that traffic engineers make much too many simplifying assumptions treating a city like a simple machine instead of a complex systemHe highlights the important battle between state traffic engineers for highways and little towns that the highway goes through The state always reuires widening which is precisely what kills the walkability of the town Part of the evil is wide streets themselves make a street narrower people drive slower pedestrians are safer and everyone enjoys the area All of this is designed to cut down on unnecessary traffic and he ends suggesting that congestion pricing charging people to drive in congested areas or times of day is a smart answer and worked well for London2 Mix the use cases avoid mono cultures all single family homes all apartments all shopping center Allow granny cottages which are small residences mixed in with the suburban single family monotony It is critical that low income and high income be mixed3 Biggest eye opener for me was the chapter on parking Parking places cost tens of thousands of dollars each and we all demand that they be provided such that usage is free If something is free it is used up uickly I had no idea how much money the city and the businesses in the city spend on parking In my city it is cheaper to park all day than to take readily available transit downtown so of course I drive even when I have no need to carry anything Many cities REUIRE businesses to provide free parking an addiction made into law so naturally our downtowns are sprinkled with parking lots that separate the stores and make it impossible to walk around Parking is a huge background cost that has been hidden from view and because it is relatively free for the user it prevents other viable forms of transport He has a formula price parking so that it is 85% full all the time Price too low and you can't find one when you need it In short if your city has some sort of transit then make the parking expensive and the busrail free and you will have a much vital downtown4 About transit and the many ways they can be done wrong Without population density people won't use the public transit The last 100 yards is the most important light rail should go directly to the middle of the interesting spot not a block away and not on the other side of a parking lot5 Pedestrians Here again he covers all the ways that pedestrian zones can be built with the best of intention and fail Many American cities blocked streets only to find the area die and many walking streets have been reverted A walking street can work but for American towns a better idea is simply keeping regular streets narrow This slows the cars makes everyone safer and comfortable The sidewalks need not be wide to make a safe zone6 Bikes Lots of ways to make cities friendly to bikes A bike lane can carry people per hour than an automobile lane7 Shape the spaces Small is good The climate is never so bad it prevents the need for walkability8 Trees Lots of evidence for how trees make the streets safer and pleasant Again the traffic studies often designate trees for removal because they are a hazard to drivers what is our priority here? Speck always associates making drivers slow down with goodness and safety Our goal is not to make cities where people can speed in and out of without delay910 The last two chapters round the book out Make cities attractive for walkers Obviously nice architecture is important but you can do with wrong Some good stories about successful examples The last chapter is about being pragmatic You can't fix everything so look for some uick wins every city has them A small change can sometimes have dramatic effectIf you love your city you will get this book read it and take action It is designed to give you an actionable point of view and back that up with some evidence to convince It is important because many of our intuitions are wrong it is true angry citizens always demand a traffic study first but that is probably not important at all to making a city that is nice to be in How many times have I heard suburban homeowners complain about the new apartment block going in but density is what makes those old towns so nice It is all about uality of life It is books like this that make we think that all is not lost for American cities and provides a glimpse of hope for the future


  4. says:

    It's hard for me to be objective about this book As a thirty year old city dweller inordiately and irrationally proud of the fact that I live in the densest municipality in New England I'm as much a part of the phenomenon that Speck describes as a neutral observer That said I loved this book Speck doesn't just talk about the benefits of walkable cities he drills down into the details about what makes for a walkable city interesting streetscapes useful public transportation mixed uses trees etc Not every city can end up as walker friendly as New York or San Francisco but there's plenty that cities could do to encourage walking and Speck lays down a blueprint for how to do thatLike all great books this left me wanting and with a host of uestions Is the cognitive impact of narrower lanes the same on all drivers everywhere? Does culture matter in the development of walkable cities or can structural and spatial changes drive transformations all on their own? Just how and when did so many American cities get it so wrong? But all those are uestions for another book this one accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do


  5. says:

    349 stars rounded down to 3 I didn't think I'd make it past the first 10 pages or so but I'm glad I stayed with it This book reminded me of Freakonomics in that many of the author's assertions were counterintuitive but ultimately plausible It was better than Freakonomics because much of the information here pertains to everyday life and is simply memorable Speck's humorous and low key approach was an added plus Speck has much to tell about one way streets bike lanes street widths lane widths sidewalk widths turning lanes parking spaces parking garages parking fees building height building design trees green spaces urban spaces cars bicycles and If these subjects interest you then I strongly recommend this book If you're not sure watch a documentary on walkable cities and let that be your guide I've seen two and they were good Unfortunately I don't recall their titles What I didn't like so much was that the material was occasionally dry and every now and then the author stayed on a subject a little too long


  6. says:

    A treatise on what makes an urban environment successful vibrant and productive while serving human needs I finished the book in a couple of days and have been so inspired that I'm attending local planning commission meetings and will be engaged and involved weekly I live in a small city that I believe must grow and attract forward looking people as the pressures of scarcity boil and roil against the suburban drug we've been binging on for the last fifty years If you want to try and get out ahead of the next fifty years read the book and then come add your shoulder to the grindstone


  7. says:

    45 Stars A great primer when it comes to urban planning books It's great for architects planners and people who just have a passing interest because it explains things simply clearly but also provides notes and annotations if someone wants a deeper dive I highly recommend picking this up if you're in the business of making cities better or even if you just want to be well informed


  8. says:

    For most of human history cities were limited to the area that people could cover on foot within a day but the advent of railed transportation and later cars expanded our range and cities grew enormously far beyond pedestrian access In the United States where most cities were young or as yet unformed the automobile effectively created them in its image to its scale resulting in vast urban decentralized urban areas wherin auto transport was assumed to be the norm and was in fact the only viable means of transportationBut those were the days of cheap energy of abundant petroleum being used by a minority of the world While the 1970s oil crisis prompted European cities to retreat from auto dependency supporting instead cycling and passenger rail the United States was 'lucky' enough to find new reservesand dig itself a deeper hole But today the prices at the pump aren’t being inflated by a cartel they’re being driven instead by the world's ever burgeoning thirst for oil and its ever real scarcity The 'changing energy reality' of the 21st century demands a response For Jeff Speck city planner and architectual designer the best adaption is the restoration of the walkable city and in his first solo release Walkable City he timidly explains why walkability is important before boldly laying out a ten step path to human scaled communities Although Walkable City eventually proves a work with muscle it doesn't start out that way Speck introduces the book by explaining that it's not the next great piece of urban criticism The arguments have already been made he writes what Americans lack is application Perhaps for that reason the section on the why of walkability lacks teeth; instead of championing as the path to municipal solvency or better yet dependable prosperity a solid approach given how concerned Americans are with financial strain he lists three reasons walkable cities are green good for your health and hip He borrows from David Owen's The Green Metropolis for the section on cities' environmental advantages of course and that's a superior read for the why of walkability Speck shines in execution though How do you make a city walkable? First check the forces that destroy it rein in the cars promote mixed used development and for the love of all that is holy stop building so many parking lots These set the stage they are the foundation from which everything else can spring although Speck doesn't stress the importance of mixed used development nearly as much as I'd expect from someone who coauthored Suburban Nation; that section is positively anemic Speck then stresses that incorporating other modes of transportation like transit are crucial The section on the integration of trolleys into the urban fabric is one of the best in the book in my option because Speck doesn't see them as an magic if you build it they will come creator of walkability but a fertilizer that allows downtown areas to flourish Some of his steps are less material and aesthetic like making streets Places That will sound familiar to anyone who has read Jim Kunstler or even The Great Good Place but aesthetics also have material values Streets lined with trees for instance not only look appealing but the trees make the street safer by calming traffic and provide pedestrians relief from the heat although they do expose them to the occasional peril of nut throwing suirrels Chuck Marohn opined in Building Strong Towns that in certain instances solutions to our cities' fiscal problems weren't possible nothing can be done to save some places completely What we have are opportunities for rational responses and Speck takes this view as well advocating for urban triage picking winners and letting some areas wither away Walkable Cities is a book to remember The slow beginning is disappointing this is a good book that could have been great It could have been what Speck claimed from the start it wasn't the next great book on American cities As it is Walkable Cities is a solid hit distilling a lot of literature into one short and punchy work Among the books cited the Holy Bible of urbanism Jane Jacob's The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Donald Shoup's The High Cost of Free Parking; Jeff Mape's Pedaling Revolution; and Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic Just as Suburban Nation was a fundamental book for understanding the problems of American urbanism Walkable City is its complement a comprehensive citizen's guide for advocacy giving people an idea of what measures they can work to effect on the local scale Bit by bit neighborhood after neighborhood Americans can restore their urban fabric and create a nation of strong towns Related •Suburban Nation Andres Duany Elizabeth Plater Zyberk Jeff Speck •The Geography of Nowhere James Howard Kunstler •The Death and Life of Great American Cities Jane Jacobs •Building Strong Towns Chuck Marohn •The Green Metropolis David Owen •Asphalt Nation Jane Holtz Keay


  9. says:

    A highly recommended read Coming from Paris living a fairly active lifestyle and having spent some time studying transportation and urbanism I don't need to be convinced of the importance of walkability As a result a lot of this strongly resonated with me Numerous examples illustrate the ingredients of walkability and provide an optimistic view for the future of walkability in American cities


  10. says:

    We're told by the author who is heavily anti car that American cities are designed around cars and have reuirements for large amounts of parking per built unit He recommends making cities pedestrian friendly having a mix of uses in a neighbourhood and increasing housing density especially as older empty nesters move back in from suburbs Lots of good ideas here He adds that young people are not getting driving licences preferring to live and work in walking areas Great for those who have the choice I can understand why housing and parking are both expensive in geographically cramped locations According to Walkable City on page 117 Parking spaces under Seattle's Pacific Place shopping center built by the city cost sixty thousand dollars each The twelve hundred space Pacific Place garage cost 73 million Such details abound than most of us would ever need Some very interesting facts about cars in the US though such as the car companies buying up trolley car firms in the past and scrapping them so there would be no public alternative to cars This book is heavily anti cars in cities but in rural areas even in Ireland cars are a necessity if you are ever to get anywhere or carry anything especially after dark when cycling is suicidal The author overlooks or doesn't know an awful lot of detail that seems obvious and important to me In discussing promoting cycling the author never mentions the biggest drawback about bikes which is theft He tells us that the Netherlands has a wonderfully high rate of cycling Yes but he never mentions that this land is all flat I did not see one single mention of parking walking or public transport provision for disabled persons For instance traffic lights are having to have a longer pedestrian crossing time here to cope with an ageing population using walking aids The author even insisted on a street junction outside his home being kerbless brick tiled from one row of houses right across the street to the others How does this help a blind person a mother with toddlers and pram a dog walker a person in a wheelchair? We're also told that Zipcars are helpful I don't know what that is and we are not told I can make an educated guess but it seems like a glaring omissionAlso the book recommends building housing without parking spaces and charging to park on the street outside these houses This ensures that people like me who drive a van to and from work at your house and need to remove all the tools every evening and may tow a trailer will never come to live in that neighbourhood So your plumber carpenter gardener sparks painter tree surgeon kitchen fitter dog groomer etc will not live where you live which pushes up the price of services And if your housing in the city centre is entirely pedestrianized with no parking spaces how do they get to you in the first place? In one area where I work the parking charges are so steep that I only go there on a Sunday and park around the corner in a space which is free on Sundays This charge would otherwise force up the price I had to charge my client I'm pleased that the author is heavily in favour of trees The urban heat island effect is by now well known and trees create shade as well as absorbing rainfall Since childhood in Dublin I've seen that wealthier areas tend to have mature trees in gardens and on roadsides while poorer areas do not; why did it take this bright man until middle age to see this at the prompt of a friend? He never mentions that trees increase biodiversity and help migrating birds to cross a city or give resident birds nest sites and food Also it never seems to occur to him that trees create problems aside from windows being too dark the infrastructure can suffer as tree roots buckle paving tilt walls break pipes and tree limbs tangle in wires or obscure street signs lighting and traffic lights They can also make it impossible to see for a driver coming out of a gate So just dropping trees or particular species everywhere is not recommended The author also says that people using street cafes prefer to sit looking at parked cars than at traffic that might hit them Actually they don't; they just need to know they won't be hit So in Dublin there are cast iron decorative bollards to protect shop windows and seated café patrons But pedestrianising can go too far I used to go to Dun Laoghaire regularly some years ago; then the planners introduced parking charges and spread them over an increasingly wider area When the walk got to ten minutes each way I stopped visiting Dun Laoghaire Now I never shop there and nobody else I know does either Similarly one major store after another has closed in Dublin city centre because people can't get near them and don't like long walks carrying lots of goods A shopping centre policy often seen here is that staff are to park at the end of the car park as the cars are left all day and that frees up spaces next to the shops for oft changing cars and for mothers with toddlers and trollies This kind of common sense could be mentioned in this book but isn't because the author doesn't make provision for the fact that families actually need cars The data compiled is interesting if you are looking at this topic and it's certainly educational about American city sprawl and the expense of providing for cars a cost paid by everyone