BUT....ever the one to question a good thing, I've been wondering lately what keeps people moving on that train? How does it keep gaining momentum and not lose the newness value? If we are selling the idea of supporting your local community, shouldn't we be making sure the community showing its appreciation for all the love and affection by giving back to the people? How, you may ask, could something as inanimate as a community do such an amorous act? Sustainable Urban Design and Planning. It's the logical choice, really. If you want community members to go downtown and shop, get their daily needs met, and show their appreciation for the shop-owners, then the appreciation has to be reciprocal for it to work. The design of our communities needs to be focused on clean air, green spaces, and proper management of roads and traffic flow. It has to be welcoming in order for people to keep coming back. Who wants to spend their money in a place that is directly opposing the values of the community members choices? They are shopping downtown, and keeping their money local, to say that they appreciate their community - let's make our communities worthy of this appreciation!
A design weblog, Inhabit.com, takes a look at what we can do to create sustainable, inviting and people friendly urban communities by incorporating 8 different techniques.
1. SUSTAINABLE LAND USE PLANNING - This will eliminate urban sprawl, keeping cities compact, with a definite distinction between urban and rural. With this step, it's important to make the city walkable, provide excellent public transit, and provide clear bike lanes. The key is to not rely so heavily on our automobiles by making "alternative" transportation choices comfortable and effective. Take a look at this picture of NYC - love the walking lanes AND bicycle lanes!
Read "Walkable City" author Jeff Beck's letter to Waterloo Illinois about how to design for foot, bike, and contained automobile traffic.
Find out how your city ranks in walkability.
2. INNOVATIVE HOUSING DESIGNS - Mixed use buildings is the key here. In urban centers, incorporating a variety of housing options to handle the population is important - do not get stuck on high rises. Place apartments and condos over shops and build co-housing residential areas. Basically, you want to make sure that people of all income levels and lifestyles can live within urban limits, thus preventing urban sprawl. Take a gander at One Louden Place in D.C.
3. SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION & MOBILITY - If we are going to be planning cities less around the automobile, then I suppose we could incorporate better public transit. Driving your own car around town is not sustainable, but you can trust it to be reliable. That's why when designing urban centers, a solidly reliable public transport system is ideal - tram, rail, bus, metro - that runs on a sustainable energy source. Perhaps we could combine them all with this human powered cycling transport system.
4. GREENING THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT - Cities have eco-systems, they are not devoid of life, therefore we need to protect and encourage these healthy systems to thrive, even in urban settings. Sustainable planning would include strategies that nourish these systems by incorporating urban gardens, green rooftops, fruit trees, and more green spaces. A healthy community is a happy community. Lush greenery on roofs will help trap water and help with gray-water runoff.