Saturday, April 25, 2015

True Urban Sustainability Must Be Foot Traffic Based

Motorized vehicles have put us on a non-sustainable path towards societal failure.

True sustainability incorporates complete integrated pedestrian design - not just sidewalks
We no longer walk like our ancestors.  Instead the obesity epidemic exponentially blossoms and life expectancy may be declining.

Peak oil has come and gone.  Price instability associated with petroleum products is here to stay and impact pocketbooks.

One significant incident of oil or gas supply disruption would rock the markets and ultimately our existence.  We are walking a fine line and possibly unprepared for what could happen.

The answer is simple.  Relearn the foot-centric community design of our grandparents generation.

We should be planing future development around the brilliant pedestrian concept of parks, shops, food and communities interconnected by sidewalks and bikeways instead of blueprinting our cities around roads.

Unfortunately our modern day automobile centered towns are ripe for catastrophic collapse because even in the best of pedestrian focused communities the infrastructure for functional bike and foot transportation is woefully inadequate.

For walking to catch on, the facilities to encourage safe, beautiful and efficient pedestrian movement must be built.

Design and build communities correctly around foot and bicycle traffic with efficient mass transit and the future will be amazingly prosperous.

Yet giving lip service through poor design gets us all nowhere quick.  That is where most of our cities are today.

For instance, Palm Coast has built many miles of bikeways and sidewalks.  You would think the area here is a pedestrian dream city.

We have all fooled ourselves into thinking our cities are eco-friendly because we build sidewalks.  Truth is though that most of these sidewalks are constructed as an after thought to roadways.

We will never approach credible sustainability with the thinking - design for automobiles first - and then design for foot traffic and bicycles as an afterthought.

Each day I walk to Public for our daily food.  The entire walk is about three miles give or take.  Every day I chuckle or curse, depending upon my mood, the weather and how heavy the groceries are when I come to this really nice crosswalk across Belle Terre Blvd.

The wide, nice sidewalk ends two meters away from the crosswalk button.

Yes, I am grateful for the button and crosswalk light.  But for a disabled person - or that matter any pedestrian - stepping across huge mounds of fire ants and sliding down a steep hill above a stormwater ditch to reach the cross walk button is more than a little absurd - and certainly sends the wrong message to would-be-pedestrians.

And this one example is just the tip of the huge, unseen by most, sustainability iceberg.

Few but the dedicated pedestrian really understand.

The planning or civil designer and plans reviewer drives a car home.  They have only limited understanding of anything foot traffic centric.  Many think sidewalks are the solution to community sustainability when sidewalks are only a piece to the overall sustainability puzzle.

Walking has opened my eyes to so much.  Give me a city or municipality that really wants to become eco-sustainable from an environmental, economic and social perspective and with pedestrian perspective and the right opportunity, and amazing prosperity could be created.

But few are willing to give up the automobile approach.

And so the cars will burn oil and our cities will sprawl outwards.

Until a petroleum supply event.

And then we will wonder why we didn't take pedestrian design seriously, sooner, while we are sliding into the stormwater ditch after attempting to press the crosswalk button.


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