Critical looks at the future of city building.
The Washington Post
In Va., Vision of Suburbia at a Crossroads
Targeting Cul-de-Sacs, Rules Now Require Through Streets in New Subdivisions
The state has decided that all new subdivisions must have through streets linking them with neighboring subdivisions, schools and shopping areas. State officials say the new regulations will improve safety and accessibility and save money: No more single entrances and exits onto clogged secondary roads. Quicker responses by emergency vehicles. Lower road maintenance costs for governments.
Although cul-de-sacs will remain part of the suburban landscape for years to come, the Virginia regulations attack what the cul-de-sac has come to represent: quasi-private standalone developments around the country that are missing only a fence and a sign that says “Keep Out.”
Homeowners choose cul-de-sacs because, they say, they offer safety, security and a sense of community.
“Cul-de-sacs are the safest places in America to live,” said Mike Toalson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Virginia, which opposes the new rules. “The first lots sold are often on the cul-de-sacs because they are safe.” As for developments with single entrances and exits, Toalson said, such configurations ensure that all traffic is local, neighbors watch out for each other and speeds are kept down. “Crooks look for multiple exits.”
Prince William County residents Brian and Donna Goff chose to raise their children in a cul-de-sac life. They live on Vixen Court, one of seven cul-de-sacs in Bridlewood Manor, a subdivision in Bristow. “You’ve got a family atmosphere. It stays quiet here,” said Brian Goff, 42. The couple, who have two young children, have lived in the cul-de-sac for nine years.
The changes come as cash-strapped states and localities can no longer afford the inexorable widening of secondary roads that are overburdened with traffic from the subdivisions, strip malls, schools and office buildings that feed into them. The system forces drivers to enter these traffic-choked roads to go even 50 yards or so to the neighborhood coffeehouse or elementary school. North Carolina and Portland, Ore., are moving on similar fronts. Read More.
Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now
THE country has fallen on hard times, but those of us who love cities know we have been living in the dark ages for a while now. We know that turning things around will take more than just pouring money into shovel-ready projects, regardless of how they might boost the economy. Windmills won’t do it either. We long for a bold urban vision.
With their crowded neighborhoods and web of public services, cities are not only invaluable cultural incubators; they are also vastly more efficient than suburbs. But for years they have been neglected, and in many cases forcibly harmed, by policies that favored sprawl over density and conformity over difference.
Such policies have caused many of our urban centers to devolve into generic theme parks and others, like Detroit, to decay into ghost towns. They have also sparked the rise of ecologically unsustainable gated communities and reinforced economic disparities by building walls between racial, ethnic and class groups.
Correcting this imbalance will require a radical adjustment in how we think of cities and government’s role in them. At times it will mean destruction rather than repair. And it demands listening to people who have spent the last decade imagining and in many cases planning for more sustainable, livable and socially just cities. Read More