Durable Growth

CNU 24: Best moments, part 4

Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit on a quiet Saturday morning

Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit on a quiet Saturday morning

I’ll return today to CNU 24, the annual gathering of the Congress for the New Urbanism recently conducted in Detroit.  I’ve previously offered the highlights of the opening day talks by Andres Duany, in two parts, and Kaid Benfield.

Today I’ll move onto Jeff Speck, who is a personal favorite.  Not only do I have a passion for his topic, walkability, but I love the way he presents his material, with quiet, confident good sense.  And, although our exchanges have been limited to simple stuff such as “Please sign my book” and “I’m sorry about spilling beer on your shoes”, he seems a genuinely nice person.

He did nothing at CNU 24 to change my opinion.

My favorite moments from his talk are below.  As before, the quotes are reconstructed from my notes and are likely imprecise, but capture Speck’s intent.

On the many elements of modern life that can be improved by walkability: “Also supportive are economists, climatologists, and epidemiologists.”

On the underfunding of transit, an essential complement to walkability: “Between 1970 and 2010, the number of road miles in the U.S doubled.  Transit funding increased by 10 to 20 percent.”

On the lack of awareness of the impacts of a drivable world: “We naturalize car deaths, considering them an inescapable fact of modern life.”

On how the lack of housing can inhibit downtowns: “A downtown with little residential can have a density of five to ten people per acre, similar to the most sparse suburbs.  And housing would beget retail and restaurants.”

On when transit becomes essential to complement walkability: “Walkable neighborhoods don’t need transit.  Walkable cities do.  Streetcars are pedestrian accelerators.”

On the effect of pedestrian friendly road diets on traffic: “There is typically little change in the average daily trips after a road diet.”

As always, quiet commonsense, delivered with good humor.

When I next write, I’ll take an urbanist perspective in perusing the recent Civil Grand Jury report for Sonoma County.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. – Dave Alden (davealden53@comcast.net)

Written by Dave Alden

Dave Alden

Dave Alden is a Registered Civil Engineer. A University of California graduate, he has worked on energy and land-use projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. He was also the president of a minor league baseball team for two seasons. He lives on the west side of Petaluma with his wife and two dogs. The blog that he writes can be found at http://northbaydesignkit.blogspot.com.

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