Urban Development and Design – and Parking LotsUrban Development and Design – and Parking Lots

My various obsessions all fit together into one bigger theme – how urban design creates healthy (or unhealthy) cities.

  • Adequate density to support neighborhood retail and public transit tends to be more walkable and more bicycle-friendly.  Density uses less land and energy, resulting in development that is more environmentally-friendly.
  • Pavement and lawns prevent rainwater from filtering into the ground and recharging the water table.  They instead wash all the trash and fertilizers in our lawns and streets into our Chain of Lakes.
  • Parking lots not only harm water quality, they also result in lower-density neighborhoods that are unpleasant to walk through.  Houses, businesses with windows facing the sidewalk and parks are all interesting to walk past, encouraging people to walk to destinations rather than driving to them.  Almost anything is more interesting to walk past than a parking lot.
  • Buildings should be designed to make neighborhoods safer.  Buildings should communicate ownership – short fences, flower gardens, even patterned pavement can do this.  Uses that encourage people to look at the street (windows, balconies, porches) put ‘eyes on the street’ and encourage personal responsibility, if only to avoid being caught.  This is called ‘natural surveillance.’  Windowless walls, even blinds and signs in windows, separate indoors commercial activities with outdoors activities, creating a less interesting environment on both sides, as well as reduced safety.  These are some of the principles of CPTED – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

Pavement and lawns prevent rainwater from filtering into the ground and recharging the water table.  They instead wash all the trash and fertilizers in our lawns and streets into our Chain of Lakes.

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