In recent blog post, Savannah Morning News Environment Reporter Mary Landers plugged her address into Walk Score. Running your Walk Score number is fun and can be instructive, athough there are flaws in the Walk Score methodology. I described them here. and Landers finds similar bugs.
Landers expresses concern about the walkability of her Parkside neighborhood, writing, “I can and do walk the area for exercise, but there aren’t many walkable destinations as far as shops and restaurants.” She’ll be happy to know there’s an affordable and widely available device that will effectively double or triple any neighborhood’s Walk Score. In fact, I’m pretty sure Landers owns one. I’ve seen her with it. It’s called a bicycle.
Residents of Parkside may be surprised to learn they can use their bicycles to visit shops and restaurants that are just to the east of them, not far as the crow flies, but often deemed unreachable because of the concrete curtain that is the Truman Parkway. I’ll admit it, traveling on Victory Drive under the parkway overpass is not a pleasant experience on a bicycle. However, with a little practice and confidence it becomes less scary.
Still, “World Famous Victory Drive” isn’t the sort of place most people would choose to ride a bike. That’s because it has ceased to be a public space and is now mostly a pipe for moving cars. And in that way it is a lot like the rest of the country.
For the past 70 years, American cities have been designed to continuously accommodate ever increasing volumes of traffic. Through our work in over 2000 communities around the country, we have found that when cities are designed around cars and traffic, they fill with more cars and traffic—whereas if we begin to plan cities for people and places, we will get more people and places.
That’s something I found on the Project for Public Spaces Web site. Here’s a little more:
Starting in the 1970s, when PPS President Fred Kent began working on William H. Whyte’s “Street Life Project,” PPS has continued to be involved in research, training, and project work related to transportation issues. We have trained transportation professionals across the states of New Jersey, New Hampshire and New York in Context Sensitive Design; we designed and manage the FHWA Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) website, and are in the process of developing a major campaign geared towards achieving fundamental transportation reform in the United States.
It is clear from all of our work that the public spaces of cities, towns and villages—our streets and roads, parks and plazas, waterfronts and commercial districts—represent this country’s greatest potential to create livable, walkable, healthy and sustainable communities, as well as its greatest challenge.
The Fred Kent mentioned above will be in Savannah early next year. From the MPC Web site: “Fred Kent, founder of the Project for Public Spaces, will lead a community forum at the Coastal Georgia Center on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 beginning at 7 p.m. This forum will focus on creating vibrant community places and offer strategies so that we can incorporate the concept of placemaking into our public destinations.”
I’m hoping Kent will help Savannah realize that streets are public places and destinations unto themselves. The MPC invites citizens to download a brochure here and take a survey here.