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Livable streets and driving don’t mix

Here is a video from Street Films that was sent to me from colleagues working on the ICLEI STAR Community Index several months back. It revisits some of the pivotal research done by Donald Appleyard starting back in the 60s and leading to his work on Livable Streets. The video uses wonderful animation to illustrate the findings quantifying the negative effects cars and speed can have on sense of community.

Meant to blog about it back when I first saw it but projects kept me busy. The imagery and message, nonetheless, stuck with me as I traveled to several communities and could see what was being described firsthand. While the results are intuitive, the level of impact is higher than I would have guess. In areas where traffic is light, communities are much more likely to interact with each other, identifying more than 3 times as many friends on the block as folks living on heavy traffic streets.

Writing this blog sent me on a journey to learn more. The first thing I discovered was how coveted copies of Appleyard’s book Livable Streets have become. Used copies are selling for more than $250. In the Wikipedia link I provide above, I also learned Donald was tragically killed by a speeding car in Athens in 1982. I’ve share with you 2 sentences from the article:

Appleyard was that rare combination of innovative path-breaking academic researcher and quiet, insistent activist, professional, intent on getting things done–things that made cities better places for people to live. He was a person of ideas– especially concerned with expanding the scope of urban design to encompass thinking from the social sciences.

Tomorrow we travel to Boston to work with the City of Somerville to conduct a Walkshop in the Inner Belt/Brickbottom region. The area is ripe with opportunities and challenges including an elevated highway that divides the study area and a new transit station on Washington Street included in plans to extend the Greenline through Somerville. Participants will spend the morning walking around the area, taking photos with their phones and digital cameras, and talking about many of the same issues Appleyard brought up in his work. Will have this video on hand to help illustrate things to consider when thinking about walkability in the area.