In skimming a book I just checked out from the library — Simplicity Lessons — I became curious about a movement called New Urbanism, and subsequently looked it up on the internet. It’s a fascinating movement of urban development that began in the late 80’s and which was a reaction to “urban sprawl”. According to the movement, sustainable communities are designed such that everything one needs is within walking distance, and is designed with pedestrians and bikers (instead of merely cars) in mind. I think this is a wonderful idea…you may want to check out this nice article that explains the movement better than I. Here are the elements of a new urbanist community according to this article:
1) The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square of a green, and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner. A transit stop would be located at this center.
2) Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center, an average of roughly 2,000 feet.
3) There is a variety of dwelling types — usually houses, rowhouses and apartments — so that younger and older people, singles and families, the poor and the wealthy may find places to live.
4) There are shops and offices at the edge of the neighborhood, of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
5) A small ancillary building is permitted within the backyard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work (e.g. office or craft workshop).
6) An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home.
7) There are small playgrounds near every dwelling — not more than a tenth of a mile away.
8) Streets within the neighborhood are a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination.
9) The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
10) Buildings in the neighborhood center are placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room.
11) Parking lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.
12) Certain prominent sites at the termination of street vistas or in the neighborhood center are reserved for civic buildings. These provide sites for community meetings,education, religion or cultural activities.
13) The neighborhood is organized to be self-governing. A formal association debates and decides matters of maintenance, security and physical change. Taxation is the responsibility of the larger community.