In 1898 a dude called Sir Ebenezer Howard from the UK started something called the Garden City Movement. The idea was to create ‘nodes’ of walkable towns that were all interconnected via efficient or rapid transport links, all of which were embedded in a rich natural grid [think of parks in a city but invert the idea… cities in a park]. We’re still talking about this stuff today and our urban and sub-urban neighbourhoods in the US, UK and Oz are littered with examples and remnants of this movement.
I first got interested in this urban design concept around 20 years ago, and arguably it’s even more relevant to us now than it was 115 years ago. I’ll revisit Garden Cities [and a number of cool components] in a few posts I’m planning for this month, but for today I wanted simply to focus on ‘walkability’.
This weekend’s challenge is intended to plant a little awareness about what a walkable neighbourhood feels like. In the upcoming posts I’ll then delve into a number of precinct-scale design opportunities that bring in urban design, architecture and engineering.
A fun tool to play around with is the ‘Walk Score’ calculator. This one has been built for real estate purposes, i.e. if you’re looking at a particular property to rent or buy you can use this tool to establish what amenities are within say a 10 minute walk. It’s fun to play around with – you can look at your entire city’s walkability, zoom into neighbourhoods, or even type in your address and see how walkable it is where you live or work. To date this tool is only built for the US, Australia and Canada… if you’re in Fiji you probably don’t care how long it takes to walk anywhere ; >
So this weekend’s challenge, should you choose to accept it, has two parts;
- Find out what your walk score is at home; then
- Hit the streets, and see how long it takes to walk to your nearest fresh food store [I mean real food, the stuff that grows in the ground]. Take notice of how long it takes, how pleasant the walk is, how safe you feel, and how many people you encounter along the way. [this one might also reinforce the value of growing some of your own food – see Victory Gardens from yesterday]
These are all components of good community design and help us reduce car travel, improve health, build our extended community family, slow down, and even support our local economy.
Have a good walk. If it’s raining, let you hair get wet and catch some drops in your mouth.