By: Benedetto Davi
Photo credit: USDN Sustainable Consumption Toolkit
Mixed-use neighborhoods are only one of the principles that defines Smart growth, but perhaps the most difficult to achieve. There are various definitions of what mixed-use development means, all of which embed common characteristics:
1)blending vertical and/or horizontal uses (residential, commercial, cultural, industrial, etc.),
3)pedestrian, bike and child friendly environments
4)healthy and resilient communities
5)local economy improvement
Obviously not every urban area and community is set-up for mixed-use land and development. And noise, pedestrian traffic and congestion are frequent side-effects of mixed-use neighborhoods. Therefore this is where bottom-up planning can take a step towards giving voice to those communities that suffer from the absence of diversity in land-use.
Furthermore, planning policies that point in the direction of polycentric cities, can considerably reduce pressures on public and private transportation, decreasing the number of long distance commuters and traffic congestion.
What makes a street attractive? What provides the invitation to stroll or linger?
Is it the placement of trees that line the street, the storefronts which have glass facades revealing what lies inside or the urban furniture that creates an outdoor living room. Low rise buildings vs high rises, create density while not overwhelming pedestrians with their heights, opening a view of blue sky.
A great street is all this and more, and even if we can’t exactly describe the magic combination, we know it when we walk it.
Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks
The hillside town of Spoleto, Italy is a challenge to walk. Imagine beautiful continuous, steep hills throughout the historical center.
As residents began to abandon the hassles of parking in the older town for the new malls in the peripheral areas, the Spoleto city planning department went to work brainstorming ideas to invite folks of all ages to visit, shop and live in “centro storico”.
So what did they do to motivate residents and tourists to walk those steep hills? The city invested significant funds into creating alternative mobility, which dis-incentivizes cars and motivates priority for pedestrians:
- created multiple underground parking right outside of town with a connected moving walking, protective from the elements of weather
- developed a system of these protective moving walkways, allowing residents in town to traverse one level of the city to another
- designed well place maps to indicate walking paths, directions and distances between sights and streets
- built a beautiful, extended outdoor escalator system, placed alongside the ancient walls of the city, providing breathtaking views
From 8 to 80 years old, anyone can access and enjoy this Umbrian town by leaving the car behind and going for a walk.
Photo credit: Aminah Ricks
No two cities are alike. Neither are all the neighborhoods within each city. Going further, depending on your particular address within a neighborhood, your walkability and ease of access to public transportation, the grocery store, bank and favorite coffee shop determine your quality of life or lack thereof.
Walk Score is an impressive algorithm that generates a score of walkability by address. If you live in Canada, Australia or the United States, all you have to do is plug in your location. Find out if you live in a Walkers Paradise now.
Visit Walk Score