Walkable Cities

The Rational & Irrational City 
According to the CIA world fact book, the current population of the world is approximately 7.3 billion. By the year 2050, the population will grow to about 9.7 billion, with significant growth occurring in undeveloped regions. In more developed regions, urbanization is growing at the rate of 2.05 percent. About 54 percent of the world lives in cities, and in America, nearly 82 percent of the country is living in cities. We are moving to urban environments – seeking jobs, culture, and accessibility to urban infrastructure and public transportation. These are rational reasons. In conjunction with the rational is the irrational. Why are we emotionally drawn to cities? There is a shift in the role cities play in quality of life today. It is linked to health, environmentalism, and a sense of place. More than just a place to live, they are places of social change; there is a lifestyle you adopt when choosing to move to a city. You choose to walk to the store rather than hopping in your personal car; you choose to take a run through the neighborhood park rather than purchasing a personal treadmill; you choose to live in a 900 square foot loft in Boston, Massachusetts rather than a 2,500 square foot single family home in Norman, Oklahoma; you choose to take the long route home rather than a straight shot back just to pass by your favorite mural. It is the place and interactions that bring people to cities and keep them there. Cities throughout the world have a character that makes each urban experience different from the next. What makes certain cities stand out from the rest? What makes a model city? What do cities of the future look like? How can we design cities to address environmental issues we face today and for years to come? These are the questions that I will be investigating throughout my blog posts.

Cities of the Future
In the United States today, cities of all sizes are connected through the interstate highway system. In 1956, the Federal-Aid Highway Act was adopted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and grew what the American car culture is today. In a society where cars dominate the streets, and with an increasing amount of people inhabiting this planet, there needs to be a better way for people to move without harming the well-being of ourselves and the world we live in. Although cities such as Portland and Boston have integrated systems heavily favorable towards pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation riders, they are only two cities out of many. The three largest cities in Oklahoma – Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Norman – are all predominately car-centric places. To get to one place to another requires a personal car. This partially has to the with the planning of districts and neighborhoods. A person could live on one end of the city, but would work on the other end, and from there will need to go further to get to the nearest market. Today, nearly one-fifth of personal incomes are spent on transportation. Reasons for this are valid; cars are convenient and play a huge role in our daily activities. Taking cars out of the equation would mean one less payment to have to worry about and one less tank to fill, meaning less carbon dioxide to emit. Still, this doesn’t change the minds of many. The question then becomes – what are strategies city planners, architects, and urbanists could use to convince an entire city to get rid of their vehicles and to walk everywhere instead?

Resilient Cities & the Environment
In this blog, I will attempt to prove that walkable cities are the solution to current environmental issues that threaten our planet. Retrofitting the infrastructure of cities is the first step towards a more resilient and sustainable future. Cities are transient places and are constantly in motion. That is why we need to rethink the way we move. I will be presenting case studies obtained through academic resources and my own collection of personal narratives and interviews. The case studies will not be limited to only American cities; many model cities are oceans away. Keeping the parameters of my case studies fairly broad, I will be investigating failures and successes of cities in the past, cities we live in today, and visions of what cities can be.

Do your homework
Below is a TED Talk relating health, resilience, and environmental sustainability to walkable cities. City planner, Jeff Speck, challenges designers and creators of cities to transform the way we think about the urban environments we thrive in and the role they play in the quality of our lives. Cities are more than just products of industrialism waiting to be saved by green products and energy efficient buildings. They are places that cultivate changes in lifestyle that is both sensitive to our health and the planet we all share.

Sources
“The World Factbook” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 2016.
Pfeiffer, David A. “Ike’s Interstates at 50.” National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, 2006.
“The Walkable City.” Jeff Speck:. TED Conferences LLC, Sept. 2013.

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One thought on “Walkable Cities

  1. randypeppler September 25, 2016 / 10:39 pm

    This is terrific, Yvan! I love how you asked numerous questions at the beginning, And you brought up the importance of “sense of place”, which is one of my favorite research topics. I think Eisenhower’s initial motivation for the interstate system was for the military – the ability to move things around. It has become much more than that. And your pathway to lead us through this sounds quite interesting – I look forward to hearing about the successes and failures. Thanks for the TED talk!

    Like

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