Australian city planners are seeking ways to make cities better for walking and cycling.
Walkability and cyclability are attractive and “green” urban amenities. They reduce pollution and improve health. They are also economic assets.
In developing countries, active transport is key to improving accessibility for the urban poor. In developed countries, the walkable and cyclable city can be a magnet for attracting and retaining the “creative class”.
In Australia, plans and projects are being developed to extend pedestrian malls and cycling paths, restrict car traffic, remove street parking and install more lighting.
Have these efforts paid off?
Yes and no. Recently released 2016 Census data reveal some disappointing commuting patterns in Australian cities.
Across metropolitan areas, typically plagued by sprawl and segregated land uses, cars still dominate. Car-based commuting rates have decreased by only 1-2%.
Public transport use remains relatively low. Even in Sydney, it captures only about one-quarter of commute trips.
Since 2011, Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin have made modest gains (2-4%) in public transport use. Brisbane has had an incremental decline. Public transport use is stagnant in Perth, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra.
Meanwhile, rates of walking and cycling remain constant and low – even in smaller centres such as Hobart, Darwin and Canberra. Even in the most “cycling-oriented” places (Darwin and Canberra), only about 3% of commuters cycle.
City-level data tell a different story. Here, walking is more popular than at the wider metro level. This reflects the mono-centric nature of Australian cities, where most jobs are located in the CBD.
In larger cities, between a quarter and a third of the population walks to work. Similar proportions of commuters use public transport. Brisbane is an exception, with less walking, lower public transport use and much more driving than Sydney, Melbourne or Perth. Hobart and Darwin have low walking rates and are very car-dependent, which is surprising considering their small size.
Originally Published by The Conversation, continue reading here.
From analysing our urban spaces to ensure they encourage social cohesion, to connecting household appliances to the internet to regulate our energy needs, technological developments promise an exciting future for city living
The riots that erupted across the UK in August 2011 caused devastation in many areas, but could they have been tackled earlier or even avoided through the use of advanced urban planning?
Work being done by consultants Space Syntax, who use computer-modelling to consider the spaces between buildings in the design of urban places, shows how technology can help us to understand the way we live and work in cities and how we interact with our surroundings.
Ed Parham, Space Syntax’s associate director, says: “By analysing how areas are connected, you can find patterns of accessibility.” The modelling technique, known as spatial networks, examines how streets and communities function in relation to each other. It builds on research being carried out in the slums of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where Space Syntax discovered that a deprived area can become connected to surrounding communities and potential new markets by simply removing a small number of key buildings.
Parham explains: “In slums you find that they don’t overlap with the nearby city centre, which makes it increasingly difficult to generate something that is economically sustainable. You end up with overcrowding and no one has any money to reinvest. These areas become completely isolated.”
Space Syntax believes that by analysing this relationship further, authorities could predict the location of future social disturbances. Using the same modelling tools, planners could also design more user-friendly and safer communities by creating living spaces with plenty of natural surveillance, which are connected rather than segregated from their surrounding areas.
While Space Syntax software works on large-scale cityscapes, technology is also transforming the creation of individual buildings and urban spaces. In Birmingham, the interior design of the £188m new city library is being “road tested” by consumers in the virtual reality world Second Life so that strengths and weaknesses can be identified and catered for as the actual building is still being constructed, delivering a better deal for users.
Technology will also transform our daily urban existence in a myriad number of small ways, says Philip Sheldrake, director of Intellect, which represents the UK technology industry…
Imagine city leaders surveying Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871, a landscape of ash and ruin. Their task, as daunting as it must have been exhilarating: Build the city again, from the husk of what was. Build it better. 30-eight years later, famed civic architect Daniel Burnham offered his Plan of Chicago, a blueprint for building this city into a dominant economic and cultural force on the national and world stage. Mission accomplished. Today Chicago’s muscular skyline and robust neighborhoods draw tourists from around the world.
But not far from these enclaves of affluence are neighborhoods poisoned by foreclosed homes, boarded-up businesses and empty lots, all of which spur an exodus of people. That poison spreads, imperiling healthier communities.
In October the Tribune launched a series of editorials to draft a new Plan of Chicago, encouraging solutions for education failures, joblessness, crime and other intertwined challenges that endanger the city’s livability and future. We asked readers for their proposals to solve these problems. And they delivered.
In more than 700 proposals, readers embraced Burnham’s admonition to “Make no little plans.” On Dec. 15 we presented proposals for improving the prospects of Chicago’s children. Today, we focus on the land, how the city and its people can better use vast swaths of Chicago’s 231 square miles, reviving neighborhoods and fueling growth.
Several readers urged the city to live up to its official motto, “Urbs in Horto” — “City in a Garden.” The idea: A campaign spearheaded by foundations, businesses and City Hall to convert polluted brownfields and other vacant lots into urban gardens that would not only provide communities in food deserts with fresh produce but also generate jobs and cash. Restaurateurs gladly would buy locally grown herbs. And why stop at crops? Urban farmers can raise fish. Or bees.
The benefits of creating farms and gardens extend beyond those neighborhoods. A 2005 Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs study showed that every dollar the state spent on cleaning up brownfields yielded $US16 in private, local and federal investment.
So City Hall, foundation leaders … what are you waiting for?
Ask any Chicagoan about the city’s most pernicious problems and you’ll hear about crime. Dangerous streets. Parks that devolve into shooting galleries.
Employers flee danger zones, accelerating a neighbourhood’s collapse. How to encourage those businesses to open and stay put? One reader suggested that the city offer tax incentives and training to businesses that agree to mentor a business owner in economically struggling, high-unemployment areas. The mentors would focus on helping businesses that attract people and more development: bakeries, clothing stores, cafes, day care centres, shoe repair shops. In return, the business owner who is mentored would agree to hire people in the community. Sounds like a great idea to us.
Another strong proposal: Create designated commercial strips and parks as “refuges.” These would get 24/7 security so people would feel safe in them at any time. That would ease parents’ anxieties and strengthen neighborhoods.
An exodus of city manufacturing jobs and population has left some neighborhoods ravaged by abandoned factories and warehouses. Demolishing them is expensive and leaves … empty lots. Readers have a raft of innovative suggestions for vacant and underused structures: Convert some into temporary dorm-style residences for homeless and working-class families. Repurpose other long-vacant buildings as centres for day care and job training, or places for small-business startups to root and grow.
Think big, then bigger: Designate and nurture a new Motor Row of vehicle and service outlets. Create a string of indoor hydroponic plant farms, financed by TIF funds, establishing Chicago as a leader in the industry. Cluster enterprise zones around sewage treatment plants for industries that need vast amounts of water but not potable water. Chicago, perched on Lake Michigan, is also a perfect place for a global fresh water research center, drawing on the talents and assets of companies, institutions and universities.
Public schools anchor many communities. For years, however, Chicago Public Schools mismanaged its portfolio, keeping half-empty buildings open to avoid political blowback. No more. Last year, CPS closed almost 50 schools. If no one will repurpose or replace them with commercial or other private investments, many could be reborn as training, athletic or elder day care facilities.
Several proposals echo an idea suggested by Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he headed CPS in 2008: Create public boarding schools where children from troubled homes would eat, sleep and study in a stable setting. Such schools already exist in Washington, D.C. They’re successful, though costly to run.
Still, CPS loses millions of dollars in aid based on attendance when kids don’t go to school. Ultimately, children pay the price of their parents’ neglect. So do their neighborhoods — the entire city — as families flee to suburbia. But that flight isn’t a foregone conclusion. We’ve seen how one business on one troubled block can make a difference. The same way that one cop can. Or one teacher.
Chicago’s current land and structures aren’t fixed and immutable. They must evolve so the city can thrive as a 21st-century colossus. Chicagoans have plenty of terrific ideas to rebuild Chicago, block by block. What they lack is the money, and the clout, to begin reviving their city…
Urban intensification is the elephant in the room when it comes to affordable housing.
Former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash recently called for the opposite of intensification: relaxation of the metropolitan urban limits. The accord between Auckland Council and central government includes plans for more greenfields development on the edge of town. And the Budget suggested that if councils do not free up greenfields land for development, central government will over-ride them.
Much of this is being done in the name of affordable housing. Yet the main solution to the spiralling cost of land is staring policymakers in the face: intensification. Because it’s not the cost of building houses that is driving affordability woes, it’s the cost of land.
Intensification means “building up” rather than “building out”: density instead of urban sprawl. Crucially, it requires no new land. Building two storeys instead of one doubles housing capacity and uses no additional land. The cost of land is divided by the number of storeys.
“Building up” can’t deliver quarter acre sections. But it can deliver something much more important: liveability…
Instead of creating taller buildings to cope with skyrocketing urban populations, city planners are proposing tiny “micro-apartments” of just a few hundred square feet. A measure in San Francisco proposes to create hundreds of these apartments, which could increase the population in some neighborhoods by 35 percent. A similar measure would allow micro-apartments in New York City, too.
Above, you can see a proposal from Panoramic Interests for the San Francisco models, which are 220 square feet. They can be built for one or two people, and feature a foldaway bed that turns into a dining table.