Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Can We Improve the Connectivity (and Vibrancy) of Our Neighborhoods?

In a recent article on, one of my favorite staff writers, David Roberts, conducts a step-by-step critique of his home turf, the Bitter Lake neighborhood in Seattle (Walk Score 71). By exposing the limitations of the current orientation of city streets and lack of adequate access to public spaces, Roberts identifies the reasons why he and his wife don't feel comfortable letting their children walk to the local park and why they have never met their neighbors who live less than a stone's throw away.

Roberts then embarks on a multi-stage redesign of his neighborhood (complete with maps and colored lines denoting areas of interest, see his initial one on the left) and offers some well-though-out and reasonable changes to the current urban fabric.

By engaging in this exercise, Roberts offers an answer to a question that has largely dominated my pursuit of sustainable urbanism in the last year: What can we possibly do to the miles and miles of unproductive infrastructure already in place?

Roberts concludes his post by addressing this very issue. He writes: "One of the biggest challenges in years ahead, as we attempt to densify and green our communities, will be retrofitting existing neighborhoods to increase walkability, sociability, sustainability, and safety. It's worth a minute of anyone's time to ponder how they could make their own surroundings more amenable to spontaneous, non-commercial, human-scale social interaction."

To see the rest of his neighborhood diagrams and a more detailed analysis of the proposed design elements, read his full post here.

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