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4 ways to make a city more walkable

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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 just a different way --
    he was the pointilist --
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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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    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,
    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 people have to move in,
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    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 part,
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    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?"
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    He said, "No, that was Tuesday."
  • 13:36 - 13:41
    When you do what Portland did and spend
    money on bicycle infrastructure --
  • 13:41 - 13:45
    New York City has doubled the number
    of bikers in it several times now
  • 13:45 - 13:48
    by painting these bright green lanes.
  • 13:48 - 13:51
    Even automotive cities
    like Long Beach, California:
  • 13:51 - 13:55
    vast uptick in the number of bikers
    based on the infrastructure.
  • 13:55 - 13:57
    And of course, what really does it,
  • 13:57 - 13:59
    if you know 15th Street
    here in Washington, DC --
  • 13:59 - 14:02
    please meet Rahm Emanuel's
    new bike lanes in Chicago,
  • 14:02 - 14:06
    the buffered lane, the parallel parking
    pulled off the curb,
  • 14:06 - 14:10
    the bikes between the parked
    cars and the curb --
  • 14:10 - 14:12
    these mint cyclists.
  • 14:12 - 14:15
    If, however, as in Pasadena,
    every lane is a bike lane,
  • 14:15 - 14:17
    then no lane is a bike lane.
  • 14:17 - 14:20
    And this is the only bicyclist
    that I met in Pasadena, so ...
  • 14:20 - 14:22
    (Laughter)
  • 14:22 - 14:24
    The parallel parking I mentioned --
  • 14:24 - 14:25
    it's an essential barrier of steel
  • 14:25 - 14:29
    that protects the curb and pedestrians
    from moving vehicles.
  • 14:29 - 14:33
    This is Ft. Lauderdale;
    one side of the street, you can park,
  • 14:33 - 14:35
    the other side of the street, you can't.
  • 14:35 - 14:37
    This is happy hour on the parking side.
  • 14:37 - 14:40
    This is sad hour on the other side.
  • 14:40 - 14:43
    And then the trees themselves
    slow cars down.
  • 14:43 - 14:45
    They move slower when trees
    are next to the road,
  • 14:45 - 14:47
    and, of course, sometimes
    they slow down very quickly.
  • 14:48 - 14:51
    All the little details --
    the curb return radius.
  • 14:51 - 14:53
    Is it one foot or is it 40 feet?
  • 14:53 - 14:56
    How swoopy is that curb to determine
    how fast the car goes
  • 14:56 - 14:58
    and how much room you have to cross.
  • 14:58 - 15:01
    And then I love this,
    because this is objective journalism.
  • 15:01 - 15:06
    "Some say the entrance to CityCenter
    is not inviting to pedestrians."
  • 15:06 - 15:08
    When every aspect
    of the landscape is swoopy,
  • 15:08 - 15:11
    is aerodynamic, is stream-form geometrics,
  • 15:11 - 15:13
    it says: "This is a vehicular place."
  • 15:13 - 15:18
    So no one detail, no one speciality,
    can be allowed to set the stage.
  • 15:18 - 15:20
    And here, you know, this street:
  • 15:20 - 15:24
    yes, it will drain within a minute
    of the hundred-year storm,
  • 15:24 - 15:26
    but this poor woman
    has to mount the curb every day.
  • 15:26 - 15:29
    So then quickly, the comfortable walk
    has to do with the fact
  • 15:29 - 15:34
    that all animals seek, simultaneously,
    prospect and refuge.
  • 15:34 - 15:37
    We want to be able to see our predators,
  • 15:37 - 15:39
    but we also want to feel
    that our flanks are covered.
  • 15:39 - 15:42
    And so we're drawn to places
    that have good edges,
  • 15:42 - 15:45
    and if you don't supply the edges,
    people won't want to be there.
  • 15:45 - 15:47
    What's the proper ratio
    of height to width?
  • 15:47 - 15:49
    Is it one to one? Three to one?
  • 15:49 - 15:53
    If you get beyond one to six,
    you're not very comfortable anymore.
  • 15:53 - 15:54
    You don't feel enclosed.
  • 15:54 - 15:57
    Now, six to one in Salzburg
    can be perfectly delightful.
  • 15:57 - 16:00
    The opposite of Salzburg is Houston.
  • 16:00 - 16:04
    The point being the parking lot
    is the principal problem here.
  • 16:04 - 16:08
    However, missing teeth, those empty lots
    can be issues as well,
  • 16:08 - 16:11
    and if you have a missing corner
    because of an outdated zoning code,
  • 16:11 - 16:14
    then you could have a missing nose
    in your neighborhood.
  • 16:14 - 16:16
    That's what we had in my neighborhood.
  • 16:16 - 16:19
    This was the zoning code that said
    I couldn't build on that site.
  • 16:19 - 16:23
    As you may know, Washington, DC
    is now changing its zoning
  • 16:23 - 16:26
    to allow sites like this
    to become sites like this.
  • 16:26 - 16:28
    We needed a lot of variances to do that.
  • 16:28 - 16:30
    Triangular houses
    can be interesting to build,
  • 16:30 - 16:33
    but if you get one built,
    people generally like it.
  • 16:33 - 16:35
    So you've got to fill those missing noses.
  • 16:35 - 16:37
    And then, finally, the interesting walk:
  • 16:37 - 16:39
    signs of humanity.
  • 16:39 - 16:41
    We are among the social primates.
  • 16:41 - 16:43
    Nothing interests us more
    than other people.
  • 16:43 - 16:45
    We want signs of people.
  • 16:45 - 16:48
    So the perfect one-to-one ratio,
    it's a great thing.
  • 16:48 - 16:50
    This is Grand Rapids,
    a very walkable city,
  • 16:50 - 16:52
    but nobody walks on this street
  • 16:52 - 16:54
    that connects the two
    best hotels together,
  • 16:54 - 16:58
    because if on the left,
    you have an exposed parking deck,
  • 16:58 - 17:01
    and on the right,
    you have a conference facility
  • 17:01 - 17:04
    that was apparently designed
    in admiration for that parking deck,
  • 17:04 - 17:07
    then you don't attract that many people.
  • 17:07 - 17:11
    Mayor Joe Riley, in his 10th term,
    Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina,
  • 17:11 - 17:13
    taught us it only takes
    25 feet of building
  • 17:13 - 17:15
    to hide 250 feet of garage.
  • 17:15 - 17:18
    This one I call the Chia Pet Garage.
    It's in South Beach.
  • 17:18 - 17:19
    That active ground floor.
  • 17:19 - 17:22
    I want to end with this project
    that I love to show.
  • 17:22 - 17:25
    It's by Meleca Architects.
    It's in Columbus, Ohio.
  • 17:25 - 17:28
    To the left is the convention center
    neighborhood, full of pedestrians.
  • 17:28 - 17:31
    To the right is the Short North
    neighborhood -- ethnic,
  • 17:31 - 17:34
    great restaurants,
    great shops, struggling.
  • 17:34 - 17:36
    It wasn't doing very well
    because this was the bridge,
  • 17:36 - 17:39
    and no one was walking
    from the convention center
  • 17:39 - 17:40
    into that neighborhood.
  • 17:40 - 17:45
    Well, when they rebuilt the highway,
    they added an extra 80 feet to the bridge.
  • 17:45 - 17:47
    Sorry -- they rebuilt the bridge
    over the highway.
  • 17:47 - 17:49
    The city paid 1.9 million dollars,
  • 17:49 - 17:52
    they gave the site to a developer,
  • 17:52 - 17:53
    the developer built this
  • 17:53 - 17:55
    and now the Short North
    has come back to life.
  • 17:55 - 17:59
    And everyone says, the newspapers,
    not the planning magazines,
  • 17:59 - 18:01
    the newspapers say
    it's because of that bridge.
  • 18:01 - 18:04
    So that's it. That's the general
    theory of walkability.
  • 18:04 - 18:06
    Think about your own cities.
  • 18:06 - 18:08
    Think about how you can apply it.
  • 18:08 - 18:10
    You've got to do all four things at once.
  • 18:10 - 18:12
    So find those places
    where you have most of them
  • 18:12 - 18:14
    and fix what you can,
  • 18:14 - 18:17
    fix what still needs fixing
    in those places.
  • 18:17 - 18:19
    I really appreciate your attention,
  • 18:19 - 18:22
    and thank you for coming today.
  • 18:22 - 18:24
    (Applause)
Title:
4 ways to make a city more walkable
Speaker:
Jeff Speck
Description:

Freedom from cars, freedom from sprawl, freedom to walk your city! City planner Jeff Speck shares his "general theory of walkability" -- four planning principles to transform sprawling cities of six-lane highways and 600-foot blocks into safe, walkable oases full of bike lanes and tree-lined streets.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
18:37

English subtitles

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