In the recent times I have started to expand my interests. One of these new subjects is urbanism and architecture. That become something because I’m a cyclist and a pedestrian most of my time, but also because the pratical impact it has on most of people lives.

In my life, any interest by a subject is followed by a reading. In this case I started with Walkable Cities by Jeff Speck. As an noobie about urbanism, this book was a excelent starting point.

It is a good overview about the subject, going through a range of topics using the empiric knowledge the author and cientific studies in the field. The only downside is that it’s American-centric, which make sense once the subtitle is How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. That also ends being positive once the country I live in (Brazil) loves to follow north americans no matter what they do.

The bottom line is that our cities are shaped by cars, not by people. Fortunately, we have people with the disposition to work and make it better.

Some of my notes

  • Get walkability right and so much of the rest will follow.
  • A walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, confortable, and interesting.
  • Road and highway work, with its big machines and small crews, is notoriously bad at increasng employment.
  • It is the places shaped around automobiles that seem most effective at smashing them.
  • Electrict vehicles are clearly the right answer to the wrong question.
  • The automobile is a servant that has become a master.
  • Protect the predestian.
  • Induced demand is the great intellectual black hole in city planning.
  • Most cities’ traffic models presume 1 to 2 percent annual growth, even when those cities are shrinkinc.
  • Induced demand is the name for what happens when increasing the supply of roadways lowers the time cost of driving, causing more people to drive and obliterating any reductions in congestions.
  • There is no earthly reason why an engineer would ever design a 14-foot lane for city block, yet we do it continually. Why? The answear is utterly shameful: Because that is the standard.
  • … London introduced a roughly fifteen-dollar fee for any driver who wanted to enter the condgest heart of the city on weekdays, with the revenue to be used to support a progressive transportation agenda.
  • City Planning … Before it had a name, the planning profession scored its first great victory, by reducing urban overcrowding and moving housing and facctories awaf from each other… and thus began the centry of separating everything from everything else.
  • Rather than parking worjing in the service of cities, cities have been working in the service of parking.
  • Do most parking structures cover their costs? Far from it. When we shop in a store, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly.
  • Nobody can opt out of paying for parking.
  • If cities required restaurants to offer a free desert with each dinner, the price of every dinner would soon increase to include the cost of dessert (even the ones who did not eat). The consequences would undoubtedly include an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and hearth disease.
  • Americans require parking and limit density, while Europeans require density and limit parking.
  • If curbiside parking is no priced properly, the resulting perversity of the overall parking regime creates vast inefficiencies that are costly for drivers and nondrivers alike.
  • An 85 percent-occupied lot at ten dollars a pop is less profitable than a half empty lot at twenty dollars.
  • With rare exceptions, every transit trip begins and ends with a walk. As a result, while walkability benefits from good transit, good transit relies absolutely on walkability.
  • Running buses in a sprawl is a lose-lose scenario, in a which heavy subsidy yields inadequate service.
  • The only way to reduce traffic is to reduce roads or to increase the cost of using them, and that is a bitter pill that few pro-transit cities are ready.
  • Transport system take 1 of 2 forms: either nodal, to connect several walkable districts together, or linear, to enhance and extend a walkable corridor.
  • How do you create a transit-and-walking culture in a place where drive is so easy?
  • Protect the pedestrian: “Will potential walkers feel adequately protected against being run over?” is the central questions for walkable cities.
  • The mor blocks per square mile, the more choices a pedestrian can make and the more opportuniets there are to alter your path.
  • The greatest threat to pedestrian safety is not crime, but the very real dange of automobiles moving quickly.
  • A twenty-mph sign does not a twenty-mph driver make. Most motorist drive the speed at which they feel confortable, which is the speed to which the read has been engineered.
  • Let’s turn to the larger lesson: the safest roads are those that feel the least safe, demanding more attention from drivers.
  • All vertical objects such buildings and trees maintain a minimum distance from street corners, so that drivers can see around it.
  • If your downtown lacks vitality and it’s got one-ways, it’s probably time for a change.
  • Money spent on bike lanes generates more than twice the jobs of money spent on car lanes.
  • increasing the ambiguity of urban road spaces actually lowers car speeds.
  • Drivers learn to reach for the door handle with their opposite hand, so they cannot exit the car without checking for bikes.
  • … 63 percent of bicycle fatalities are the result of head injuries.
  • If a bike lane isn’t safe for an eight-year-old child, it isn’t really a bike lane.
  • If a team of planners was asked to radically reduce the life between buildings, they could not find a more effective method than using modernist planning principles.
  • Get the design right and people will walk in almost any climate.
  • Often the first item in the budget to be cut, street trees are key to pedestrian comfort and urban livability in so many ways.
  • … which found that the presence of street trees and other vertical objects along the read edge correlated with a 5 to 20 percent decline in midblock crashes.
  • Concentration, not dispersion, is the elixir of urbanity.

So long and thanks for all the fish!