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  1. #1
    Dare to be weird!
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    Great Urban Neighborhoods

    I think it would be worthwhile to try to get a better understanding of the factors that make a neighborhood good for carfree living in general and biking in particular.

    My personal impression, based mostly on living in and frequently visiting a handful of cities in Texas, is that good neighborhoods for carfree living tend to be the older ones near downtown areas. There are enough stores and services within a reasonable distance. Streets are often laid out in a grid and there are multiple ways to get in and out of the neighborhood. Public transit facilities may exist.

    I think there's a resurgence of interest in these old neighborhoods. Two of my relatives are as car-culture as it is possible to be and they do or have done small scale residental construction and remodeling. Both of them separately told me they are excited about restoring downtown buildings in old urban areas for residental use (Mineola TX and Tulsa OK). And both of them said they would like to live there, not just flip the property or rent it out! Why? Because they could walk everywhere, they said. Another relative who is now retired from the construction business also talked warmly about downtown redevelopment in Dallas TX. Something important is going on, very quietly, in the background.

  2. #2
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    The French Quarter of New Orleans was not considered a desirable place to live for decades, into probably at least the early 1990s. Now it's the priciest real estate in the city. It's also one of the oldest neighborhoods.

    It's ideal for not having a car. There's no parking anyway, and the streets are very narrow, clearly not laid out for automobiles. Cars that do venture into the French Quarter have to travel much slower than bicyclists.

    Fitting your model, the two streetcar lines of the city both terminate on Canal Street, which is one border of the Quarter.

  3. #3
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    Arlington is nearly like that... bike trails everywhere and people are used to dealing with/seeing people on bikes. The grocery store is biking distance, but not as much walking distance, though. The kids' school is just about half a mile away if you use the shortcut up the hill.

    Koffee

  4. #4
    Senior Member mpop's Avatar
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    I think one good thing for car free living might be a flat area to live, I know that would be nice, I live in Pittsburgh, and I find that the hills cause some problems, and going to the south hills is not doable on a regular basis because of Mt. Washington. I would say a grid lay out is not needed for going car free. I like Pittsburgh’s street lay out, it gives the ‘burgh character, what I am talking about is that the streets grow out of the point at the rivers and spread out from there. Also the biggest thing that would make going car free nice for more people would be how the cagers react to bikers. If a person is thinking of going car free, but lives in a city where the cagers will aim to hit cyclists then that said person will be afraid to go car free, I have had many close calls that when I look back on them look like the drivers were trying to hit me.
    Michael P. O'Connor
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy
    There are enough stores and services within a reasonable distance. Streets are often laid out in a grid and there are multiple ways to get in and out of the neighborhood. Public transit facilities may exist.
    As you may know, there's been a movement in the last couple years to create new communities based on "traditional" urban design schemes, generally known as The New Urbanism.

    Unfortunately, the very things that make such communities walkable and livable — high density and mixed-use development — are illegal in many places. Creating a neighborhood in which residents can walk or bike to stores, schools and services violates zoning regulations designed to enforce the tragic notion that where we live must geographically separate from where we work, shop and learn.

  6. #6
    Senior Member mpop's Avatar
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    that is stupid with the zoning laws. Sorry that all I have to say, that those laws are stupid and need to be revocked.
    Michael P. O'Connor
    http://www.mikeoconnor.net

  7. #7
    H23
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    Quote Originally Posted by chocula
    As you may know, there's been a movement in the last couple years to create new communities based on "traditional" urban design schemes, generally known as The New Urbanism.

    Unfortunately, the very things that make such communities walkable and livable — high density and mixed-use development — are illegal in many places. Creating a neighborhood in which residents can walk or bike to stores, schools and services violates zoning regulations designed to enforce the tragic notion that where we live must geographically separate from where we work, shop and learn.

    Yes, the new urbanist neighborhoods are notorious for having confusing streets that "don't go anywhere". They are nice once you get home from work-- you can grocery shop, get your nails done, go to starbucks, rent a video, drop off stuff at a dry cleaner, push the baby stroller, etc... but if you need to go anywhere outside this self-contained "logan's run" type environment, you're screwed without a car unless the community is nearby to public transit.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by H23
    but if you need to go anywhere outside this self-contained "logan's run" type environment, you're screwed without a car unless the community is nearby to public transit.
    You're exactly right and that's why No. 8 of the ten core principles of the New Urbanism describes interconnectivity of neighborhoods:

    8. Smart Transportation
    -A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
    -Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation.

    Obviously, this principle is probably the most difficult to orchestrate, especially the part about the trains.

    Logan's Run type environment! LOL! Classic!

  9. #9
    H23
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    Synopsis of Logan's Run:
    http://www.transparencynow.com/Logan/logpics1.htm
    ...for the kiddies!

  10. #10
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    I just don't see how you can create a pedestrian friendly designed path that is any good for cyclists. Pedestrians will always find a way to get in the way of bicyclists- jumping in the bike lanes on streets running in your direction, running on the multi-use lanes in the wrong direction, running side by side with no regard for cyclists, etc.

    It sounds like Utopia, but I don't see it happening... not in this country, at least.

    Koffee

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    Logan's Run LOL!!

  12. #12
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by H23
    ...They are nice once you get home from work.... but if you need to go anywhere outside this self-contained "logan's run" type environment, you're screwed without a car unless the community is nearby to public transit.
    This is the first mention of work or job on this thread. It really is key. Not only does the community need to be near mass transit (or a wide range of employment possibilities), but the work location needs to be near the 'other end' of that mass transit.

    Al

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    Older neighborhoods tend to have the factories mixed in with the residential areas, but newer areas are "master planned" or zoned to make a lot of businesses miles and miles away.

    I wonder how Japan does it? Japan is FULL of small businesses, cottage industries, etc where you might have so-and-so's machine shop next to such-and-such's mochi factory/shop and residences sprinkled all through, for a nation that makes such great cars they're sure a lot less dependent on them.

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    Federal insurance, lilHinault. There is at least one type and possibly several types of federal insurance that will be denied a city if it doesn't follow federal zoning guidelines. The the most problematic of those guidelines specifically prohibits mixing residential with any type of business use. Any mixed neighborhoods that existed before the rule went into effect are ok, but no new mixed construction. The rule went into effect before the population really took off out there on the west coast. That's why you've got more suburban hell's out there than the east does.

  15. #15
    Has opinion, will express
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    Quote Originally Posted by lilHinault
    I wonder how Japan does it?
    History. Europe is the same. They simply have had to come to terms with an empathy for their environments and economies to survive.

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    Geez Average, you're right, this stuff is at the Federal level. We do have older downtown areas that are pre-car, and nice, the newer the area the more utterly car-dependent though. Just like Ivan Illich says, the car is a "radical commodity" I think he calls it, where alternatives have been purposefully discouraged.

  17. #17
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    Although federal influence is undeniable, I'd argue that zoning remains mostly a local function, with regulations crafted and enforced at the municipal, county and sometimes regional level. Since New York City passed our country's first zoning regulations almost 90 years ago, partly to repel the penetration of industrial concerns into other districts of the city, just about every town and city in the United States has established its own set of zoning regulations.

    While the intent of these regulations can often be traced back to legitimate public health concerns (we don't want the leather tannery to locate next door to the apartment building) zoning has been taken to the extreme so that professional offices, neighborhood markets and sidewalk cafes can be cast as dangers to the "residential character" of neighborhoods. "High density" and "mixed-use" remain very dirty words (at least in my state), despite the fact that they can also be used to describe some of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in our country.

  18. #18
    jim anchower jamesdenver's Avatar
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    mapquest or google maps zip code 80206 or 80203 (where i live), then look at zip code 80126, or highlands ranch, co

    a good neighborhood is a grid. i can easily go to a friends house at "11th and emerson", however recently when visiting someone way out in aurora, i had to be told to take himalaya place, not himalaya court, or way. looking close up at those neighborhoods on a map is like looking and a maze i used to draw in grade school. i'm great at maps, but it took me five minutes of driving around to find the house. in fact there was a story about how emergency workers,(ambulances and firefighters), PRACTICE driving around these areas, so they don't get mixed at night during and emergency. that's not a neighborhood i want to live in.

    my neighborhood, 80206, has a great mix of small funky electic shops, and nearby (cherry creek), has more upscale chain stores. there was also a great article in this weekend's denver post about local stores WANTING to be in new smaller pedestrian type developments, and not enormous shopping areas. and the developers want the local businesses there, even if it might generate a little less revenue than an established chain store.

    i live in a townhome with nine units, great older homes near me, and taller apartment buildings make for a great mix. i have condos selling for 130,000, homes for a million, and apartments renting for $500. that's a great mix of people. i don't like seeing signs that say $150,000 homes this way and $300,00 homes the other way. that's voluntary economic segregation. how would want to live that way?

  19. #19
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesdenver
    ...there was also a great article in this weekend's denver post about local stores WANTING to be in new smaller pedestrian type developments, and not enormous shopping areas.
    Once people get into a car to go shopping, where distance is no object, they'll go right to a predominant big box chain store such as Walmart or Barnes & Noble. To survive, small stores need to overcome that.

    I can see that a small individually owned store might prosper by serving a local customer base in a high density pedestrian type area. The same store might not have a chance in an enormous shopping area. If their customers have to get into a car to get there, they can easily decide to get it cheaper at the dominant competition store.

  20. #20
    Senior Member smurfy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by H23
    Synopsis of Logan's Run:
    http://www.transparencynow.com/Logan/logpics1.htm
    ...for the kiddies!
    Wow, I remember seeing that movie when I was a teenager! References to that here are timely.

    It's interesting to talk to people at work about New Urbanism, alternative transportation and stuff like that. It's incredible how brainwashed into living in far-flung neighborhoods full of "McMansions" where one has to use the private automobile for everything. Most people just don't get it. One person who says is concerned about the enviroment has three kids, one a teen from a previous marriage who drives everywhere (overpopulation), drives a large pickup truck for everything, has to "live out in the country" to be away from neighbors (sprawl), has to have all his "toys" ie: boats, ATV's, jet skiis and other fossil-fuel burning things (air pollution) and on and on, ad nauseusm.

    America's consumer culture seems to be alot like "Logan's Run". Interesting parallels!
    "You handle it like you handle a bicycle" - Jacques Rosay, Airbus A380 test pilot

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    "New urbanism" ultimately wont work as is either, its a decent starting point but not even close to the solution.Until its possible to have food production,jobs, and living space within close proximity of each other we will continue to have problems, and until the cheap energy input weve been squandering comes to an end either forced on us by geology or voluntarily, the needed changes arent gonna happen.Todays suburbs are literally going to be tomorrows wasteland and farmland if it can be reclaimed at all, weve destroyed and paved over massive amounts of viable farmland, topsoil just doesnt miraculously appear overnight.Right now we are in the tail end of a spending and credit orgy still wasting resources on an unsustainable lifestyle with no real value, the down slope of the age of oil is in our faces yet few even see it, and the way down will happen much quicker than the way up because we have become much better and faster at using these resources up.Once the actual realization hits of whats going on there will likely be a massive effort to make corrections for our mistakes of the last 100yrs, this in turn will even accelerate resource usage even further, but its like chasing a train after its left the station.Im not optimistic at this point that this is going to be a smooth process at all, especially since most people are in denial and govt has taken the "last man standing approach".Its not a "doomsday" scenario at all, although it could easily get that way, but Id lay big money on the odds that places like Las Vegas for example have maybe 5yrs left before it starts changing into a ghost town.Other cities with similar problems will end up the same.

  22. #22
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    This all falls under Need vs Want. (comments in parenthesis are my usually sarcastic remarks)

    in this case Want has gotten way out of proportion. Wanting a huge home...most homes here are massive compared to other countries.

    When I saw a typical home in Norway, i was astounded....a 3-bedroom apartment here is massive compared to the homes i saw there. Their bedrooms are far smaller. I also think that may have to do with how little time they spend in those rooms, instead either do something in the living room, or go outside (heaven forbid if we did that!).

    Then in Turkey, I stayed tehre for a summer in a 3 bedroom condo, and it was massive....well the living and dining areas were, the bedrooms were again, small. Your average 10x11 bedroom for them is a room meant for a couple.....kids/singles usually get a smaller room than that. However their living rooms were just HUGE....however I found that the people there tend to be very sociable to their neghbors, so the living rooms are often large so tehy can have lots of guests over......neighbors (in america neighbor=teh sux )!

    Oh and we cannot forget that businesses attract delinquents...like everyone else!

    Seriously, whoever came up with this zoning stuff didn't think it through properly. I agree some businesses have no place in city limits, like fuel burning/nuclear powerplants, or anyhting that produces billwing clouds of toxic crap....but most businesses don't fall under that.

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