Crowdsourcing = Data = Better Places

You know what the payment is for crowdsourcing? By asking other people to step up and think through solutions to some collective problem, I must commit to making a difference myself.

Every time I’ve asked you to share information with me, you have. Then I feel the need to compile it, analyze it, and organize it into a useful tool. I often get behind in answering all of your individual emails – thanks for all you send – but the power of your collective comments comes through loud and clear.

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Healthy, or Unhealthy, by Design

A few months ago, we talked about how a great city can be like a great running buddy, calling us to venture outdoors into more active, satisfying lifestyles. The photo-essay accompanying that conversation was on the urbanity of Wilmington, North Carolina. Last week, we were in another North Carolina town, Fuquay-Varina, working to create just those sorts of tightly-gridded, walkable streets connecting convivial, complete neighborhoods. Then perhaps the temptation to walk, bike, and run can overcome the lethargy of our modern lifestyle.

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Zoning as Spiritual Practice: From me to we to Thee

Get right with God. Fix your zoning.

That’s not something you hear regularly from the pulpit, maybe. But it’s gospel nonetheless. Here’s why:

If there’s one common thread woven through the world’s most enduring religions, it’s the call to connectivity: Self to others to everything.

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Choosing to Overlook the Obvious

I live in an old house that overlooks a single-track CSX rail line. Between my front gate and the train is a two-lane, neighborhood-edge thoroughfare with a speed limit of 35 mph and an average speed closer to 40.

Though it functions as an in-town, city street, it’s classified as a state highway by the Georgia DOT, which means that, while modest in scale, it’s not exactly context-sensitive in its behavior. It’s been repaved many times without being milled, so the historic curbs once in evidence are now long covered up with asphalt, and the 4 and a half-foot sidewalk that runs along it is separated by a planting strip of 24 inches or less (depending on the block) which, ironically, can’t legally be planted with anything other than grass.

Chuck Marohn of Strong Towns might classify it as a baby-stroad.

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Walkable Streets II: The Documenting

This time last week, I was considering common issues associated with walkable streets and mentioned that 35-40kph (25mph) moves the most traffic. I didn’t even think about it as I wrote it. As something long-embedded in my brain, I just said it. Matter-of-factly.

Readers took me to task, wanting to know the source.

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Serving the Needs of Seniors: Solutions in practice

Last month we talked about Connections, Community, and the Science of Loneliness, in which I lamented my parents’ generation lack of active communities geared toward people of all ages. Since then, I’ve looked a little more deeply into some of the newer neighborhoods designed around livability, to see which of them are offering especially graceful aging options.

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Walkable Streets: Considering common issues

As municipalities throughout North America seek to reform their development patterns (or at least expand their options) from the single-use zoning and automobile oriented regulations of the past century to those that allow for walkable, compact, mixed use places, there is a long list of standards and regulations that must be addressed. Often we discuss these issues in isolation, particularly the reform of use-based zoning into more responsive form-based zoning, and the reform of street standards from automobile-focused approaches to those that also balance the needs of bikes and pedestrians. Not only are these two regulations inextricably linked, but a roster of appropriate walkable street standards is absolutely essential to a form-based land use regulation. Where conventional zoning districts come with their own menu of street types (the ubiquitous local, collector, and arterial — all named for their vehicular function), so does the zoning for walkable urbanism (the street, avenue, and boulevard — to name a few).

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New Game, New Rules? Guessing at the future of American housing

If it did nothing else, the last decade should have disciplined some of our enthusiasm for betting the house, literally, on long-term trends deduced from short-term experiences. Remember that little hiccup in the world economy when pretty much everybody bought into assumptions about ever-rising home values?

So where do I get off saying this: For the next 15 to 20 years we’re going to experience the most dramatic changes in American neighborhoods since the post-WWII era?

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