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The general theory of walkability | Jeff Speck | TEDxMidAtlantic

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    So I'm here to talk to you
    about the walkable city.
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    What is the walkable city?
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    Well, for want of a better definition,
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    it's a city in which the car
    is an optional instrument of freedom,
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    rather than a prosthetic device.
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    And I'd like to talk about
    why we need the walkable city,
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    and I'd like to talk about
    how to do the walkable city.
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    Most of the talks I give these days
    are about why we need it,
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    but you guys are smart.
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    And also I gave that talk
    exactly a month ago,
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    and you can see it at TED.com.
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    So today I want to talk
    about how to do it.
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    In a lot of time thinking about this,
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    I've come up with what I call
    the general theory of walkability.
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    A bit of a pretentious term,
    it's a little tongue-in-cheek,
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    but it's something
    I've thought about for a long time,
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    and I'd like to share
    what I think I've figured out.
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    In the American city,
    the typical American city --
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    the typical American city
    is not Washington, DC,
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    or New York, or San Francisco;
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    it's Grand Rapids or Cedar
    Rapids or Memphis --
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    in the typical American city
    in which most people own cars
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    and the temptation
    is to drive them all the time,
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    if you're going to get them to walk,
    then you have to offer a walk
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    that's as good as a drive or better.
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    What does that mean?
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    It means you need to offer
    four things simultaneously:
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    there needs to be a proper reason to walk,
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    the walk has to be safe and feel safe,
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    the walk has to be comfortable
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    and the walk has to be interesting.
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    You need to do all four
    of these things simultaneously,
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    and that's the structure of my talk today,
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    to take you through each of those.
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    The reason to walk
    is a story I learned from my mentors,
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    Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk,
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    the founders of the New Urbanism movement.
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    And I should say half the slides
    and half of my talk today
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    I learned from them.
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    It's the story of planning,
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    the story of the formation
    of the planning profession.
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    When in the 19th century
    people were choking
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    from the soot of the dark, satanic mills,
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    the planners said, hey, let's move
    the housing away from the mills.
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    And lifespans increased
    immediately, dramatically,
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    and we like to say
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    the planners have been trying to repeat
    that experience ever since.
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    So there's the onset
    of what we call Euclidean zoning,
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    the separation of the landscape
    into large areas of single use.
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    And typically when I arrive
    in a city to do a plan,
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    a plan like this already awaits me
    on the property that I'm looking at.
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    And all a plan like this guarantees
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    is that you will not have a walkable city,
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    because nothing is located
    near anything else.
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    The alternative, of course,
    is our most walkable city,
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    and I like to say, you know,
    this is a Rothko,
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    and this is a Seurat.
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    it's a different way of making places.
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    And even this map of Manhattan
    is a bit misleading
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    because the red color
    is uses that are mixed vertically.
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    So this is the big story
    of the New Urbanists --
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    to acknowledge
    that there are only two ways
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    that have been tested by the thousands
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    to build communities,
    in the world and throughout history.
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    One is the traditional neighborhood.
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    You see here several neighborhoods
    of Newburyport, Massachusetts,
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    which is defined as being compact
    and being diverse --
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    places to live, work, shop,
    recreate, get educated --
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    all within walking distance.
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    And it's defined as being walkable.
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    There are lots of small streets.
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    Each one is comfortable to walk on.
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    And we contrast that to the other way,
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    an invention that happened
    after the Second World War,
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    suburban sprawl,
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    clearly not compact, clearly not diverse,
    and it's not walkable,
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    because so few of the streets connect,
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    that those streets that do connect
    become overburdened,
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    and you wouldn't let your kid out on them.
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    And I want to thank Alex Maclean,
    the aerial photographer,
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    for many of these beautiful pictures
    that I'm showing you today.
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    He's an architect as well.
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    So it's fun to break sprawl down
    into its constituent parts.
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    It's so easy to understand,
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    the places where you only live,
    the places where you only work,
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    the places where you only shop,
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    and our super-sized public institutions.
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    Schools get bigger and bigger,
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    and therefore, further
    and further from each other.
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    And the ratio of the size
    of the parking lot
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    to the size of the school
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    tells you all you need to know,
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    which is that no child
    has ever walked to this school,
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    no child will ever walk to this school.
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    The seniors and juniors are driving
    the freshmen and the sophomores,
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    and of course we have
    the crash statistics to prove it.
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    And then the super-sizing
    of our other civic institutions
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    like playing fields --
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    it's wonderful that Westin
    in the Ft. Lauderdale area
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    has eight soccer fields
    and eight baseball diamonds
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    and 20 tennis courts,
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    but look at the road
    that takes you to that location,
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    and would you let your child bike on it?
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    And this is why we have
    the soccer mom now.
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    When I was young, I had one soccer field,
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    one baseball diamond and one tennis court,
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    but I could walk to it,
    because it was in my neighborhood.
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    Then the final part of sprawl
    that everyone forgot to count:
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    if you're going to separate everything
    from everything else
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    and reconnect it
    only with automotive infrastructure,
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    then this is what your landscape
    begins to look like.
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    The main message here is:
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    if you want to have a walkable city,
    you can't start with the sprawl model.
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    you need the bones of an urban model.
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    This is the outcome
    of that form of design,
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    as is this.
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    And this is something
    that a lot of Americans want.
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    But we have to understand
    it's a two-part American dream.
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    If you're dreaming for this,
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    you're also going to be dreaming of this.
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    That would be your nightmare, I suppose.
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    Often to absurd extremes,
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    when we build our landscape
    to accommodate cars first.
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    And the experience
    of being in these places --
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    (Laughter)
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    This is not Photoshopped.
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    Walter Kulash took this slide.
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    It's in Panama City.
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    This is a real place.
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    And being a driver
    can be a bit of a nuisance,
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    and being a pedestrian
    can be a bit of a nuisance
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    in these places.
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    This is a slide that epidemiologists
    have been showing for some time now,
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    (Laughter)
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    The fact that we have a society
    where you drive to the parking lot
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    to take the escalator to the treadmill
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    shows that we're doing something wrong.
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    But we know how to do it better.
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    Here are the two models contrasted.
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    I show this slide,
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    which has been a formative document
    of the New Urbanism now
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    for almost 30 years,
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    to show that sprawl and the traditional
    neighborhood contain the same things.
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    It's just how big are they,
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    how close are they to each other,
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    how are they interspersed together
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    and do you have a street network,
    rather than a cul-de-sac
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    or a collector system of streets?
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    So when we look at a downtown area,
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    at a place that has a hope
    of being walkable,
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    and mostly that's our downtowns
    in America's cities
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    and towns and villages,
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    we look at them and say
    we want the proper balance of uses.
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    So what is missing or underrepresented?
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    And again, in the typical American cities
    in which most Americans live,
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    it is housing that is lacking.
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    The jobs-to-housing balance is off.
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    And you find that when
    you bring housing back,
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    these other things start to come back too,
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    and housing is usually first
    among those things.
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    And, of course, the thing
    that shows up last and eventually
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    is the schools,
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    because the young pioneers
    have to move in, get older, have kids
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    and fight, and then the schools
    get pretty good eventually.
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    The other part of this,
    the useful city part,
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    is transit,
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    and you can have a perfectly
    walkable neighborhood without it.
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    But perfectly walkable cities
    require transit,
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    because if you don't have access
    to the whole city as a pedestrian,
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    then you get a car,
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    and if you get a car,
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    the city begins to reshape itself
    around your needs,
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    and the streets get wider
    and the parking lots get bigger
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    and you no longer have a walkable city.
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    So transit is essential.
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    But every transit experience,
    every transit trip,
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    begins or ends as a walk,
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    and so we have to remember to build
    walkability around our transit stations.
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    Next category, the biggest one,
    is the safe walk.
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    It's what most walkability
    experts talk about.
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    It is essential, but alone not enough
    to get people to walk.
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    And there are so many moving parts
    that add up to a walkable city.
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    The first is block size.
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    This is Portland, Oregon,
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    famously 200-foot blocks,
    famously walkable.
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    This is Salt Lake City,
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    famously 600-foot blocks,
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    famously unwalkable.
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    If you look at the two,
    it's almost like two different planets,
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    but these places were both built by humans
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    and in fact, the story is that when
    you have a 200-foot block city,
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    you can have a two-lane city,
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    or a two-to-four lane city,
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    and a 600-foot block city
    is a six-lane city, and that's a problem.
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    These are the crash statistics.
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    When you double the block size --
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    this was a study
    of 24 California cities --
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    when you double the block size,
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    you almost quadruple
    the number of fatal accidents
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    on non-highway streets.
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    So how many lanes do we have?
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    This is where I'm going to tell you
    what I tell every audience I meet,
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    which is to remind you
    about induced demand.
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    Induced demand applies
    both to highways and to city streets.
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    And induced demand tells us
    that when we widen the streets
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    to accept the congestion
    that we're anticipating,
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    or the additional trips
    that we're anticipating
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    in congested systems,
    it is principally that congestion
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    that is constraining demand,
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    and so that the widening comes,
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    and there are all of these latent trips
    that are ready to happen.
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    People move further from work
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    and make other choices
    about when they commute,
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    and those lanes fill up
    very quickly with traffic,
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    so we widen the street again,
    and they fill up again.
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    And we've learned that
    in congested systems,
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    we cannot satisfy the automobile.
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    This is from Newsweek Magazine --
    hardly an esoteric publication:
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    "Today's engineers acknowledge
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    that building new roads
    usually makes traffic worse."
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    My response to reading this was,
    may I please meet some of these engineers,
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    because these are not the ones that I --
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    there are great exceptions
    that I'm working with now --
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    but these are not the engineers
    one typically meets working in a city,
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    where they say, "Oh, that road
    is too crowded, we need to add a lane."
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    So you add a lane, and the traffic comes,
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    and they say, "See, I told you
    we needed that lane."
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    This applies both to highways
    and to city streets if they're congested.
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    But the amazing thing
    about most American cities that I work in,
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    the more typical cities,
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    is that they have a lot of streets
    that are actually oversized
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    for the congestion
    they're currently experiencing.
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    This was the case in Oklahoma City,
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    when the mayor came running
    to me, very upset,
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    because they were named
    in Prevention Magazine
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    the worst city for pedestrians
    in the entire country.
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    Now that can't possibly be true,
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    but it certainly is enough
    to make a mayor do something about it.
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    We did a walkability study,
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    and what we found, looking
    at the car counts on the street --
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    these are 3,000-, 4,000-, 7,000-car counts
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    and we know that two lanes
    can handle 10,000 cars per day.
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    Look at these numbers --
    they're all near or under 10,000 cars,
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    and these were the streets
    that were designated
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    in the new downtown plan
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    to be four lanes to six lanes wide.
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    So you had a fundamental disconnect
    between the number of lanes
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    and the number of cars
    that wanted to use them.
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    So it was my job to redesign
    every street in the downtown
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    from curb face to curb face,
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    and we did it for 50 blocks of streets,
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    and we're rebuilding it now.
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    So a typical oversized street to nowhere
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    is being narrowed, and now
    under construction,
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    and the project is half done.
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    The typical street like this, you know,
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    when you do that,
    you find room for medians.
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    You find room for bike lanes.
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    We've doubled the amount
    of on-street parking.
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    We've added a full bike network
    where one didn't exist before.
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    But not everyone has the money
    that Oklahoma City has,
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    because they have an extraction
    economy that's doing quite well.
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    The typical city is more
    like Cedar Rapids,
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    where they have an all four-lane
    system, half one-way system.
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    And it's a little hard to see,
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    but what we've done -- what we're doing;
    it's in process right now,
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    it's in engineering right now --
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    is turning an all four-lane
    system, half one-way
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    into an all two-lane system, all two-way,
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    and in so doing, we're adding
    70 percent more on-street parking,
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    which the merchants love,
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    and it protects the sidewalk.
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    That parking makes the sidewalk safe,
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    and we're adding a much more
    robust bicycle network.
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    Then the lanes themselves.
    How wide are they?
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    That's really important.
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    The standards have changed
    such that, as Andrés Duany says,
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    the typical road
    to a subdivision in America
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    allows you to see
    the curvature of the Earth.
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    (Laughter)
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    This is a subdivision
    outside of Washington from the 1960s.
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    Look very carefully
    at the width of the streets.
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    This is a subdivision from the 1980s.
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    1960s, 1980s.
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    The standards have changed
    to such a degree
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    that my old neighborhood of South Beach,
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    when it was time to fix the street
    that wasn't draining properly,
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    they had to widen it
    and take away half our sidewalk,
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    because the standards were wider.
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    People go faster on wider streets.
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    People know this.
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    The engineers deny it,
    but the citizens know it,
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    so that in Birmingham, Michigan,
    they fight for narrower streets.
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    Portland, Oregon, famously walkable,
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    instituted its "Skinny Streets" program
    in its residential neighborhood.
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    We know that skinny streets are safer.
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    The developer Vince Graham,
    in his project I'On,
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    which we worked on in South Carolina,
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    he goes to conferences and he shows
    his amazing 22-foot roads.
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    These are two-way roads,
    very narrow rights of way,
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    and he shows this well-known philosopher,
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    who said, "Broad is the road
    that leads to destruction ...
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    narrow is the road that leads to life."
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    (Laughter)
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    (Applause)
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    This plays very well in the South.
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    Now: bicycles.
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    Bicycles and bicycling
    are the current revolution underway
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    in only some American cities.
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    But where you build it, they come.
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    As a planner, I hate to say that,
    but the one thing I can say
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    is that bicycle population
    is a function of bicycle infrastructure.
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    I asked my friend Tom Brennan
    from Nelson\Nygaard in Portland
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    to send me some pictures
    of the Portland bike commute.
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    He sent me this. I said,
    "Was that bike to work day?"
  • 13:49 - 13:51
    He said, "No, that was Tuesday."
  • 13:51 - 13:56
    When you do what Portland did and spend
    money on bicycle infrastructure --
  • 13:56 - 14:00
    New York City has doubled the number
    of bikers in it several times now
  • 14:00 - 14:02
    by painting these bright green lanes.
  • 14:02 - 14:07
    Even automotive cities
    like Long Beach, California:
  • 14:07 - 14:11
    vast uptick in the number of bikers
    based on the infrastructure.
  • 14:11 - 14:12
    And of course, what really does it,
  • 14:12 - 14:15
    if you know 15th Street
    here in Washington, DC --
  • 14:15 - 14:18
    please meet Rahm Emanuel's
    new bike lanes in Chicago,
  • 14:18 - 14:22
    the buffered lane, the parallel parking
    pulled off the curb,
  • 14:22 - 14:26
    the bikes between the parked
    cars and the curb --
  • 14:26 - 14:28
    these mint cyclists.
  • 14:28 - 14:32
    If, however, as in Pasadena,
    every lane is a bike lane,
  • 14:32 - 14:34
    then no lane is a bike lane.
  • 14:34 - 14:37
    And this is the only bicyclist
    that I met in Pasadena, so ...
  • 14:37 - 14:38
    (Laughter)
  • 14:38 - 14:40
    The parallel parking I mentioned --
  • 14:40 - 14:42
    it's an essential barrier of steel
  • 14:42 - 14:46
    that protects the curb and pedestrians
    from moving vehicles.
  • 14:46 - 14:49
    This is Ft. Lauderdale;
    one side of the street, you can park,
  • 14:49 - 14:51
    the other side of the street, you can't.
  • 14:51 - 14:53
    This is happy hour on the parking side.
  • 14:53 - 14:56
    This is sad hour on the other side.
  • 14:56 - 14:59
    And then the trees themselves
    slow cars down.
  • 14:59 - 15:01
    They move slower when trees
    are next to the road,
  • 15:01 - 15:04
    and, of course, sometimes
    they slow down very quickly.
  • 15:05 - 15:08
    All the little details --
    the curb return radius.
  • 15:08 - 15:10
    Is it one foot or is it 40 feet?
  • 15:10 - 15:13
    How swoopy is that curb to determine
    how fast the car goes
  • 15:13 - 15:16
    and how much room you have to cross.
  • 15:16 - 15:19
    And then I love this, because this
    is objective journalism.
  • 15:20 - 15:24
    "Some say the entrance to CityCenter
    is not inviting to pedestrians."
  • 15:24 - 15:27
    When every aspect
    of the landscape is swoopy,
  • 15:27 - 15:30
    is aerodynamic, is stream-form geometrics,
  • 15:30 - 15:32
    it says: "This is a vehicular place."
  • 15:32 - 15:37
    So no one detail, no one speciality,
    can be allowed to set the stage.
  • 15:37 - 15:39
    And here, you know, this street:
  • 15:39 - 15:42
    yes, it will drain within a minute
    of the hundred-year storm,
  • 15:42 - 15:45
    but this poor woman
    has to mount the curb every day.
  • 15:45 - 15:48
    So then quickly, the comfortable walk
    has to do with the fact
  • 15:48 - 15:53
    that all animals seek, simultaneously,
    prospect and refuge.
  • 15:53 - 15:55
    We want to be able to see our predators,
  • 15:55 - 15:58
    but we also want to feel
    that our flanks are covered.
  • 15:58 - 16:00
    And so we're drawn to places
    that have good edges,
  • 16:00 - 16:04
    and if you don't supply the edges,
    people won't want to be there.
  • 16:04 - 16:06
    What's the proper ratio
    of height to width?
  • 16:06 - 16:08
    Is it one to one? Three to one?
  • 16:08 - 16:12
    If you get beyond one to six,
    you're not very comfortable anymore.
  • 16:12 - 16:13
    You don't feel enclosed.
  • 16:13 - 16:16
    Now, six to one in Salzburg
    can be perfectly delightful.
  • 16:16 - 16:19
    The opposite of Salzburg is Houston.
  • 16:20 - 16:24
    The point being the parking lot
    is the principal problem here.
  • 16:24 - 16:27
    However, missing teeth, those empty lots
    can be issues as well,
  • 16:27 - 16:30
    and if you have a missing corner
    because of an outdated zoning code,
  • 16:30 - 16:33
    then you could have a missing nose
    in your neighborhood.
  • 16:33 - 16:35
    That's what we had in my neighborhood.
  • 16:35 - 16:38
    This was the zoning code that said
    I couldn't build on that site.
  • 16:38 - 16:42
    As you may know, Washington, DC
    is now changing its zoning
  • 16:42 - 16:45
    to allow sites like this
    to become sites like this.
  • 16:46 - 16:48
    We needed a lot of variances to do that.
  • 16:48 - 16:50
    Triangular houses
    can be interesting to build,
  • 16:50 - 16:53
    but if you get one built,
    people generally like it.
  • 16:53 - 16:56
    So you've got to fill those missing noses.
  • 16:56 - 16:58
    And then, finally, the interesting walk:
  • 16:58 - 16:59
    signs of humanity.
  • 16:59 - 17:01
    We are among the social primates.
  • 17:01 - 17:03
    Nothing interests us more
    than other people.
  • 17:03 - 17:05
    We want signs of people.
  • 17:05 - 17:08
    So the perfect one-to-one ratio,
    it's a great thing.
  • 17:08 - 17:10
    This is Grand Rapids,
    a very walkable city,
  • 17:10 - 17:12
    but nobody walks on this street
  • 17:12 - 17:14
    that connects the two
    best hotels together,
  • 17:14 - 17:19
    because if on the left,
    you have an exposed parking deck,
  • 17:19 - 17:21
    and on the right,
    you have a conference facility
  • 17:21 - 17:25
    that was apparently designed
    in admiration for that parking deck,
  • 17:25 - 17:27
    then you don't attract that many people.
  • 17:27 - 17:31
    Mayor Joe Riley, in his 10th term,
    Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina,
  • 17:31 - 17:33
    taught us it only takes
    25 feet of building
  • 17:33 - 17:36
    to hide 250 feet of garage.
  • 17:36 - 17:38
    This one I call the Chia Pet Garage.
    It's in South Beach.
  • 17:38 - 17:40
    That active ground floor.
  • 17:40 - 17:43
    I want to end with this project
    that I love to show.
  • 17:43 - 17:45
    It's by Meleca Architects.
    It's in Columbus, Ohio.
  • 17:45 - 17:49
    To the left is the convention center
    neighborhood, full of pedestrians.
  • 17:49 - 17:52
    To the right is the Short North
    neighborhood -- ethnic,
  • 17:52 - 17:54
    great restaurants,
    great shops, struggling.
  • 17:54 - 17:57
    It wasn't doing very well
    because this was the bridge,
  • 17:57 - 17:59
    and no one was walking
    from the convention center
  • 17:59 - 18:01
    into that neighborhood.
  • 18:01 - 18:05
    Well, when they rebuilt the highway,
    they added an extra 80 feet to the bridge.
  • 18:05 - 18:07
    Sorry -- they rebuilt the bridge
    over the highway.
  • 18:07 - 18:10
    The city paid 1.9 million dollars,
  • 18:10 - 18:12
    they gave the site to a developer,
  • 18:12 - 18:13
    the developer built this
  • 18:13 - 18:16
    and now the Short North
    has come back to life.
  • 18:16 - 18:19
    And everyone says, the newspapers,
    not the planning magazines,
  • 18:19 - 18:21
    the newspapers say
    it's because of that bridge.
  • 18:21 - 18:24
    So that's it. That's the general
    theory of walkability.
  • 18:24 - 18:26
    Think about your own cities.
  • 18:26 - 18:28
    Think about how you can apply it.
  • 18:28 - 18:30
    You've got to do all four things at once.
  • 18:30 - 18:33
    So find those places
    where you have most of them
  • 18:33 - 18:35
    and fix what you can,
  • 18:35 - 18:37
    fix what still needs fixing
    in those places.
  • 18:37 - 18:39
    I really appreciate your attention,
  • 18:39 - 18:41
    and thank you for coming today.
  • 18:41 - 18:46
    (Applause)
Title:
The general theory of walkability | Jeff Speck | TEDxMidAtlantic
Description:

Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who, through writing, public service, and built work, advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. The Christian Science Monitor called his recent book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, "timely and important, a delightful, insightful, irreverent work."

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDxTalks
Duration:
18:47

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