May 31, 2004

Cape towns eye ‘undevelopment’

What can a community do when it's already pretty built up, and its main commercial district is riddled with eyesores? Some towns on Cape Cod "are turning their attention toward rundown buildings and deteriorating shacks, buying and builldozing them to make way for public parks and scenic views," the Boston Globe reports.

"Along Route 28 in Yarmouth, aging motels, neon lights, and asphalt parking lots have swallowed much of the land. Residents such as Jack Mulkeen conceded that his popularly scorned town is "where everyone on the Cape points to and says, `We don't want this to come here,'" the article notes.

Sound at all like Rte. 9 in Framingham?

"For more than a decade, though, Yarmouth has worked to tear down structures that built that reputation. Verdant pocket parks with benches and water views have replaced a languishing motel along Route 28 and Rascal's Nightclub, a once-popular bar that Mulkeen said had fallen on hard times and burned."

Just because a main commercial roadway has been poorly developed once, with no regard for either pedestrians or asthetics, doesn't mean it has to stay that way forever.

May 29, 2004

What Happens When Streets Are Solely Built For Cars

"When communities organize themselves around the automobile as the primary mode of transportation, they effectively engineer physical activity right out of the equation," notes an article in Endeavors, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill publication. "Children can spend as much time riding to soccer practice as they spend on the field."

Rich Killingsworth, UNC research associate professor in the School of Public Health, heads the Active Living by Design project that will investigate "how people and their communities make decisions that encourage or discourage physical activity."

"When we looked at the data across the United States, we found that as communities became less compact — sprawled out — they showed higher prevalence of hypertension, obesity, and less physical activity," Killingsworth told Endeavors.

Reminder: Encouraging physical activity means more than the presence of sidewalks -- there are sidewalks on Speen Street between Rtes. 9 and 30, but does anyone want to walk there? There has to be an appealing streetscape so people want to walk, and the ability to get to destinations safely and pleasantly.

May 28, 2004

‘Smart Growth’ in California?

"California's official demographers projected last week that the state's population, now 36 million, could reach nearly 55 million by mid-century," write the Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters. That's a staggeringly large number of people in a state that's already being choked by pollution, massive traffic jams and other manifestations of poorly managed growth. Yet the impact of growth is typically ignored until there's a crisis.

"To its credit, however, the still-young administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking the impacts of population growth seriously," Walters says. "Schwarzenegger has created an interagency task force to work on what one of its leaders, Business, Transportation and Housing Secretary Sunne McPeak, terms "a thoughtful initiative to fight what we call dumb growth."

The task force is reportedly looking at offering local communities incentives to cluster housing "near jobs and mass transit to dampen traffic congestion. [Sounds like the Massachusetts Senate plan for smart growth zoning districts (see blog entry).] The state, for instance, might make its grants for transportation, water plants, sewage facilities and even schools contingent on meeting state goals."

May 25, 2004

Oversized Wal-Mart Stores Threaten Vermont’s Essence

So says the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which placed the entire state of Vermont on its 2004 "endangered places" list.

"During the 1990s Wal-Mart located three of its four Vermont stores in existing buildings and kept them relatively modest in size," the organization notes. "Now, however, the world’s largest company is planning to saturate the state – which has only 600,000 residents – with seven new mammoth mega-stores, each with a minimum of 150,000 square feet."

The point isn't to bar Wal-Mart, but to urge the retailer to make reasonable modifications so as not to destroy the state's essence.

"Some big-box stores have adapted to local standards and worked to fit in gracefully with existing commercial districts. Some have even located in recycled vacant properties in existing downtowns," the National Trust says. "Wal-Mart should change to accommodate Vermont, not the other way around."

(Local aside: Unfortunately, ugly big-box strip-mall retail IS the existing commercial district along a good part of the Rte. 9/Rte. 30 Framingham-Natick "Golden Triangle." However, it doesn't have to be that way forever. Planners MUST start demanding more human-scale, pedestrian-compatible development. Not installing useless sidewalks in hideous asphalt oceans, but creating an area that people want to walk around in once there.)

May 24, 2004

‘The Lack of Pedestrians’

"Aside from the relative quiet and cleanliness of Framingham, what impressed the two journalists about the town was its lack of pedestrians -- which they believed was the result of everybody working," says a MetroWest Daily News article about two visiting journalists from Macedonia.

"We don't see people hanging out in cafes," Arben Ratkoceri told the News.

Having been to the Balkans five times since the breakup of Yugoslavia -- all five times staying in the homes of local people in Bosnia and Slovenia -- I can say it's more than just everybody's working.

May 23, 2004

“Sidewalks and Storefronts and the Daily Hum of Vibrant Neighborhoods’

"Too many streets are designed with cars, not people, in mind. Too many buildings are designed as if nothing around them matters," the San Francisco Chronicle writes in an article about the philosophy of Jane Jacobs, author of the seminal The Death and Life of Great American Cities more than 40 years ago.

That book "challenged the accepted wisdom of the era that downtown ills could best be cured by bulldozing 'blight' and replacing it with orderly rows of 'urban renewal.'" (Just look at Boston's sterile City Hall Plaza to see what a bad idea THAT was.)

"Jacobs rallied the opposition with such proclamation as 'lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration.' But the most lasting part of her critique was assembled with irrefutable patience: Jacobs looked at sidewalks and storefronts and the daily hum of vibrant neighborhoods to see what made them come alive. "

May 22, 2004

‘Frenzy’ of Buyers for New Urbanism Condos

"It was a feeding frenzy like developer Chris Brown had never seen," the Herald Tribune of Southwest Florida reports with obvious amazement.

"In less than an hour and a half on Tuesday, the 134 condominium units at Main Street and Palm Avenue were gone except for five penthouses." Construction on the $55 million Sarasota project doesn't even start until this fall. Prices start at $280K.

"Brown says he gives a lot of credit to Andres Duany, the urban planner who advised the City Commission on making downtown walkable and diverse. It's the first downtown building planned under new density increases that allow 200 units per acre in a 47-acre target area."

Duany is co-author of one of my favorite books on community planning: Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.

Once again: Smart growth is not no-growth. It's not anti-business. It's good for residents AND good for business.

May 21, 2004

More Confirmation: Walkable Means More Than Sidewalks

A Baton Rouge, La. newspaper reports on what a consultant told city officials about trying to encourage development in an area around LSU:

"[RTKL's Paris] Rutherford said there are three main neighborhoods separated by Highland and Nicholson roads. While there are stretches of those two roads that are walkable, their ugly architecture -- something he called the "Jiffy Lube-effect" -- and fears of crime make few people want to do so.

"It's not a pleasant experience right now," he said.

I know I've said this before, but it really needs repeating: Installing sidewalks does not make a walkable neighborhood.

Putting in sidewalks on Rte. 30 does not mean anyone will actually want to walk there. Having sidewalks on Speen Street does not allow people to walk between the stores, restaurants and hotels there. Adding "mixed use" development in downtown Framingham will not revitalize the area unless there's a pedestrian-appealing streetscape. And installing sidewalks and building housing in the Natick Mall expansion project will not by itself make the project an appealing, walkable environment.

Charging Cars To Drive in London Cuts Congestion, Pollution

A year ago, the city of London imposed a fee of 5 pounds (about $9) for cars wishing to drive in the center of London at certain peak times. This "congestion charge," imposed in February of 2003, was aimed at dealing with severe traffic tie-ups.

How is it working?

"Congestion within the zone has reduced by 30%, and the volume of traffic within the zone has reduced by 15%," according to a report released by Transport for London, a government agency. "Public transport is successfully accommodating displaced car users. ...

"Of the 65,000 to 70,000 car trips that are no longer made to the charging zone during charging hours: between 50 and 60 percent have transferred to public transport, 20 to 30 percent now divert around the charging zone , and 15 to 25 percent have made other adaptations, such as changing the timing of trips. ...

"[C]ongestion charging has been directly responsible for reductions of approximately 12 percent in emissions of both oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and fine particles (PM10) from road traffic."

May 20, 2004

Urban Growth Rivals Suburbs’ in NY Area

"A half-century of suburbanization paused in the late 1990's, even as public concern about suburban sprawl grew, according to a report on economic and demographic trends in 31 counties in and around New York City," the New York Times reports.

"The area's suburban ring continued to gain residents and jobs, but its core urban areas gained in those areas too, at nearly identical rates, reversing a pattern that began in 1945, the study found."

Two Rutgers researchers, James W. Hughes and Joseph J. Seneca, authored the study.

"After 50 years of suburban growth, the psychology was, 'We don't want any more,' " Dr. Hughes told the Times.

Empty-nesters, children of baby-boomers and immigrants were among the groups turning away from suburban,single-family "McMansions" and showing interest in urban living.

Speen Street Plans and the Natick Mall Expansion

"The development of the mall provides opportunities to enhance not only vehicular circulation, but also the bike and pedestrian access and neighborhood feel of the area," Scott Weiss, a traffic engineer with Vanesse Hangen Brustlin, the mall's consulting firm, told several dozen area residents at a Natick Planning Board meeting, according to the MetroWest Daily News.

Many of us sure hope so, and not only those people living on and near Speen and Hartford streets.

"Initial designs call for narrowing the driving lanes and potentially adding bike lanes and a sidewalk," according to the News article.

The project needs more than just adding a sidewalk and bicycle lanes. A sidewalk isn't much good if it's so unappealing that no one actually wants to use it.

There needs to be an attractive buffer between the sidewalk and moving traffic, and an appealing streetscape for pedestrians so they want to be there.

Otherwise, the Natick Mall expansion will just bring more traffic and sprawl.

May 18, 2004

Walkable Communities: More Than Just Sidewalks

That's actually the title of a U.S. Dept of Transportation brochure that talks about characteristics of pedestrian-friendly communities: things like separation from traffic, links to a variety of different land uses, pedestrian facilities, and automobiles being "not the only [design] consideration."

It's not enough to have sidewalks. They have to be appealing, and make people want to use them. Leading somewhere useful and interesting is helpful, too.

What makes an appealing streetscape for pedestrians? A brochure from the National Center for Bicycling & Walking has some basic, useful tips.

Pedestrians like storefronts, porches, walls with windows, landscaped yards. Pedestrians DON'T like garage doors, blank walls, open parking lots, unbuffered parking structures, too many driveways, open service areas.

May 17, 2004

Landscape Architecture

Yesterday's New York Times Magazine focused on landscape architecture, and there were some interesting tidbits in there about suburbs and planning more livable communities.

Community planning always involves the tradeoff between private and public spaces. For example, someone who lives in Manhattan (unless they're very wealthy) is trading the possibility of a larger and nicer private space (i.e. they can only afford a closet-sized apartment) for world-class public spaces -- stores, restaurants, museums, theater, etc., all within easy walking or public transit. Someone who chooses to live in an exurb is likely choosing a beautiful private space -- larger house, larger lot, more affordable -- over a shared, high-energy public space (yes, there might be a beautiful park or woods nearby, but it's more likely there's nothing much within walking distance except more tract housing).

In car-dependent America, "the asphalt is our landscape. The streets are our landscape. The landscape is everything out there, and it looks like hell," Landscape architect Martha Schwartz says in a Q&A. "People spend more on their bathrooms than on their grounds. And they spend ore per square foot on their kitchens than they would ever put into an open public space. The problem is that our notion of the quality of life ends at our front door."

May 14, 2004

Sudbury Parcels On The Market

A 25-acre property on Old Framingham Road near Mahoney Farm is up for sale -- owners plan to sell to Capital Group Properties (no doubt for development), but the town has right of first refusal under state law. Estimated purchase price: $3 million, according to the MetroWest Daily News.

The town is already mulling purchase of a parcel on Landham Road.

May 13, 2004

158 Acres For A High School?

"To ease overcrowding, the Souderton (Penn.) Area School District wants to buy 158 acres of farmland for a new high school," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

158 acres for a high school???

The story says many people have complained about siting a new school on that particular parcel, since it's a rural area and would likely bring a lot of congestion and traffic to a place that's still relatively undeveloped. The discussion pits suburban officials from high-growth communities dealing with overcrowded schools against "smart growth" advocates trying to combat sprawl.

The article doesn't explain why a high school would need 158 acres of land. But you can bet that no students will be walking there. In the report Why Johnny Can't Walk to School, there are sagas of even larger parcels for schools, such as 200 acres for a new school in Spartanburg, S.C. , that would generate an estimated 6,000 car and bus trips per day.

May 12, 2004

TM OK’s Temple Street Widening

Framingham Town Meeting approved a plan that will widen the oft-congested Rte. 9/Temple Street intersection.

"The project will widen Temple Street southbound by creating a lane for left turns," the MetroWest Daily News reports. "An extra lane will be added on the other side of the intersection. Also included are improved signals, new crosswalks and other amenities. "

One can just imagine how many pedestrians will be eager to cross this new, widened intersection, with 5 or 6 lanes of traffic and extremely unappealing sidewalks (no attractive buffer between sidewalk and moving traffic, a pedestrian-hostile streetscape designed solely for auto access and parking, etc.)

I actually conducted an experiment a few weeks ago, walking a couple of blocks up Rte. 9 by that intersection, toward the Super Stop & Shop. It was rather unpleasant. On a beautiful day, with a lot of apartments as well as houses around, I saw one other person on foot.

May 11, 2004

Framingham Bicycle & Pedestrian Update

I stopped in at the Framingham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting tonight, where they talked about issues crucial for non-automotive travel. Some highlights:

* There was lots of discussion about what suggestions to make for a proposed town transportation "vision." Naturally, the committee had lots of ideas about sidewalks, bike racks (note: a grant's been applied for to get rental bicycle lockers at the Framingham MBTA station) and other walking/biking friendly ideas.

I got to make a brief pitch on making sidewalks not simply usable and conforming to state guidelines, but actually APPEALING, so people WANT to walk on them. We discussed buffers between the sidewalk and street, which I consider crucial to making walking appealing to average residents, not just those who are deeply committed to cutting back auto use or who have no other choice.

* Happy National Bike Month!

* Developers at the old Sony Cinema on Rte. 9 in Natick are amenable to having a trail "spur" from their development to the Natick Mall. Developers of the Natick Mall are agreeable to improving the trail design from the planned Cochituate Rail Trail to the mall. At a Natick planning meeting, West Natick residents spoke in favor of having walking access to the mall. It's possible there will be some positive, concrete trail developments in Natick soon.

Mass. Senate ‘Smart Growth Zoning’ Plan

Mass. Senate President Robert Travaglini and Worcester Sen. Harriette Chandler have an op-ed piece in the Globe today promoting a plan to give financial incentives to communities that adopt "smart growth zoning districts" around public transit stations, town centers, comercial centers and "underutilized industrial properties."

So, the state would pay "density bonuses" of up to $4K per unit (I assume above normal zoning allowances), give such communities "a priority" for state grants and capital funds, and "establish a foundation for the state to absorb payment of additional school costs that communities may incur as a result of increasing student enrollment from these districts." The goal is more affordable housing.

Obviously, I'm in favor of smart growth. However, I see a couple of problems with this sort of plan.
Take a look at this artist's drawing and decide whether or not it's an improvement over, say, the two gas stations at the Nobscot traffic light in Framingham.

OK, so the Towne Market Mobil planned for Mequon, Wisc., isn't exactly something you'd gasp over with delight while strolling the Champs Elysées. Still, it can pay off when suburban officials get more demanding about design.

"While the results may not be cutting-edge architecture, the shunning of cookie-cutter corporate formulas can help reinforce a community's sense of place, raise the bar for design and shore up property values," Whitney Gould writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Towne Market Mobil's "signage is discreet; the gas pumps are in the back; and there's a circular seating area in the front with attractive landscaping and walkways."

Seems an improvement over the unappealing pedestrian atmosphere at the Nobscot corner stations.

Compromise Appears Near on Medfield State Plans

"In a significant departure from its long-held position, the state has presented a new plan for the former Medfield State Hospital property that slashes the proposed housing from 400 units to 300, in exchange for adding assisted-living facilities for the elderly," Boston Globe West Weekly reports.

"The new plan is winning praise from Medfield officials, who say it shows promise that the 225-acre property could be redeveloped in an acceptable way."

"Acceptable" in this instance appears to mean as few school-age children as possible, so the town can reap maximum property tax revenue at minimum expense.

May 10, 2004

Mass. Program Wins National Planning Award

A publication outlining the Massachusetts Heritage Landscape Inventory Program won this year's American Planning Association public education award.

"Heritage landscapes are those physical aspects of a town that make residents feel familiar, at home, and a part of the history of their community," according to the APA. "Unfortunately, many of these unique places and spaces are not protected from development by any long-term legal mechanism. As part of its Heritage Landscape Inventory Program, Massachusetts's Department of Conservation and Recreation developed this critical tool for residents concerned about the changing character of their communities both to identify those areas that are most significant to their town and to help guide community planning efforts to ensure their lasting value."

Reading the Land – Massachusetts Heritage Landscapes: A Guide to Identification and Protection can be ordered for $2.50 postage from the Conservation Department Web site.

May 9, 2004

Can Big Dig Encourage More Walking in Boston?

Voice of America reports on a Northeastern University civil engineering class assignment to design a "multi-use path - for biking, walking, jogging - alongside a stretch of road that separates the densely populated North End from the Boston Harbor."

May 8, 2004

National Sprawl Index

"Much as Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, most people would be hard pressed to define urban sprawl, but they know it when they see it," starts a report from Smart Growth America.

Nevertheless, the organization set out to rank 83 U.S. metropolitan areas -- representing about half of the country's population -- based on residential density, mixed or single use, active town centers and street network accessibility.

The losers: (i.e. greatest sprawl)

May 7, 2004

Sense of Place: Two Upcoming Events

One of the important things about a livable community is a sense of place -- that it wasn't simply dropped from out of the sky, that it's not a carbon copy of a hundred other similar soul-less cookie-cutter suburbs. And whatever Framingham's planning faults, especially along the suburban sprawl nightmare that is Rte. 9, the town has retained important pieces of its history and still has neighborhoods that feel unique.

Two upcoming events celebrate Framingham's history and neighborhood pride. Sunday, May 16 is the Framingham House Tour, sponsored by and a fundraiser for the Framingham Historical Society. Eight historic homes and buildings are on tap for this year's event, including "a 26-room grand manor known as the "Owl's Nest" where Buffalo Bill Cody reportedly once partied. That cottage-style home from 1790 is the oldest home in this year's tour," according to the Milford Daily News.

Next month, Riverfest 2004 and Discover Saxonville Day combine for activities all weekend June 12-13 (you can see listings on the Framingham Historical Society site). There are lectures, hikes, canoe trips and A Day in the Park (Danforth Park, Saxonville) town fair 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 12.

Riverfest activities feature a nature hike on the Carol Getchell Trail in Saxonville with Audubon naturalist Gail Fenton (11 a.m. Saturday, meet at the Nature's Classroom by the Sudbury River near the Stapleton School). There will also be a ribbon cutting for the historic Danforth Street Bridge revnoation ("one of only two remaining pony truss bridges in the state," according to the Framingham Historical Society).

I do love the fact that there's a beautiful nature trail along the river now, even if I once emerged from the trail with more than a dozen mosquito bites. But I still dream about a walking path along the river on Water Street, instead of that chain link fence barring nearby residents from enjoying it there (the lone sidewalk is across the street).

May 6, 2004

New Speen St.-Mall Connector Road Proposed

"[Natick] town consultant Ken Ho and mall consultant Scott Weiss said a new, two-lane road connecting Speen Street to interior mall roads would be the best bet," the MetroWest Daily News reports from a public hearing last night on the proposed Natick Mall expansion.

Wouldn't it be nice if that road were actually built with pedestrians in mind -- not just installing a sidewalk no one would ever want to use unless their car broke down, but one with an attractive green buffer between walkers and whizzing traffic? So the many office workers on Speen Street could stroll to the mall when the weather was nice?

The consultants did agree that "a proposed access road off Speen Street that would link to a section of the Cochituate Rail Trail needs a traffic signal to ensure a safe crossing."

Safety and a Sense of Place

"We need to start thinking in terms of streets as being mixed use streets," urban designer Elizabeth Macdonald tells Berkeley's Traffic Safety Center newsletter. That is, design from the outset for both pedestrians and auto traffic, not just for vehicles.

She makes an extremely interesting point when talking about San Pablo Avenue, a street that runs parallel to an Interstate in the San Francisco area that she describes as "an arterial street, but it's still a street that goes through neighborhoods and people use it for neighborhood activities":

"My bias is to say that those local needs and activities take precedence over through travel, or should at least be balanced with through travel needs on any street."

This is very much an issue planners talking about downtown revitalization in Framingham need to keep foremost in mind. The desire to get traffic moving through downtown must be balanced with the needs of the neighborhood. Turning Rtes. 126 and/or 135 into pedestrian-hostile traffic sewers may help commuters driving through town, but they'll kill off a town business district.

May 5, 2004

Framingham Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meets Tuesday

The Framingham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee will meet this Tuesday, May 11, 2004, 7:30 pm at Town Hall (Lower Nevins Conference Room 1).

On the agenda: a discussion of recent events including a Metrowest Growth Management forum, Mass Highway hearing on the Water Street bridge reconstruction in Saxonville and the recent Cochituate Rail Trail cleanup.

There will also be a progress report on the rail trail, as well as a discussion on developing schedules and selecting areas for pedestrian and bicycle accommodation surveys this summer.

May 4, 2004

Smart Growth Saves Money

"The cost of providing public infrastructure and delivering services can be reduced through thoughtful design and planning," according to a policy paper recently published by the Brookings Institute. "Several studies suggest that rational use of more compact development patterns from 2000 to 2025 promise the following sorts of savings for governments nationwide: 11 percent, or $110 billion, from 25-year road-building costs; 6 percent, or $12.6 billion, from 25-year water and sewer costs; and roughly 3 percent, or $4 billion, for annual operations and service delivery. School-construction savings are somewhat less."

What exactly is smart growth? "Almost never does smart growth mean no growth; instead, it entails accommodating it in a way that maximizes its benefits and reduces as much as possible its frequent negative side effects. . . . Smart growth proponents argue that these growth patterns, popularly known as 'sprawl,' are not inevitable but result at least in part from major governmental policies that distort the market and facilitate the excessive decentralization of people and jobs."

May 3, 2004

Vote Postponed On New Saxonville Library Plan

Framingham officials have withdrawn several Town Meeting articles related to constructing a new branch library in Saxonville, across from the current McAuliffe branch. The proposal will be resubmitted to fall Town Meeting, after more details are available about the project's cost, Library Director Tom Gilchrist told the MetroWest Daily News.

The existing branch is woefully inadequate to meet area demand. The small space is completely full -- library officials say that literally every time they want to buy a new book, they need to decide what book to discard in exchange. The building, not much larger than a trailer with a feel to match, was designed to hold 16,000 books and now has more than 70,000 books, videos and tapes. It is the busiest branch library in Massachusetts.

The state awarded a $1.6 million grant to Framingham for a new branch -- the first time the state has ever awarded such a grant for a branch library; but the town needs to come up with additional funds.

In addition to providing for adequate library services for the area -- according to current accepted standards, the branch needs to be tripled in size to serve its population -- the new branch would be an important asset to making the Saxonville area a more attractive community overall. Unlike the main library, the current tiny branch has no space for programs or community meetings. It is not an appealing gathering place or destination, as the main library is; it does not encourage lingering. The proposed new branch library -- within walking distance of a fair amount of moderate-income, multi-family housing -- would offer these important amenities to the area.

Current plans call for the new branch to be built across the street on land that is now part of the massive Pinefield shopping center parking lot (the town is still negotiating purchase terms for that property). That's yet another side benefit of the project -- that asphalt ocean is an unappealing, pedestrian-off-putting feature of the neighborhood. Having a library there should improve the intersection's pedestrian ambiance as well as safety. Hopefully, there would also be some kind of appealing pedestrian path -- not just uninterrupted blacktop -- connecting the library, its parking area and the shopping center behind it.

There are more details about the proposed new branch on the Framingham Library Web site.

May 2, 2004

More Than Cars Need to Share the Road

Designing livable communities isn't "anti-car" -- it's about creating balance, so that multiple uses can reasonably share public space -- cars, pedestrians and bicyclists. And that has other benefits: creating destinations people enjoy being in, not just passing through.

"Anyone joining the burgeoning movement to make America more walkable soon discovers the key issue is not urban planning or transportation priorities but love," writes Jay Walljasper on AlterNet. "Places we love become places that we hang out, and those are always the best places for walking."

Unfortunately, most of 21st century America now designs exclusively for the automobile, perhaps tossing in some sidewalks that are actually difficult and unpleasant to use.

"Walking, in many ways, is still viewed as an exotic and slightly odd habit," Walljasper says. "Try this experiment some time at a party or other gathering: Announce that you are walking home. I'll bet you, two-to-one odds, that someone will offer a ride, even if you live just three blocks away and it's a sunny 80 degrees outside."

May 1, 2004

America’s Most Walkable Cities

Prevention magazine had an article recently on America's 12 best walking cities. Along with general livability issues such as crimes rates and air quality, key issues included destinations to walk TO as well as pedestrian access to mass transit. It's not enough just to have sidewalks and parks!

The top 12 was based on rankings in conjunction with the American Podiatric Medical Association, which has a list of the top 125 cities in order. Tops on the list: New York, followed closely by San Diego. Surprising third: Jersey City. Boston ranked #7. Other area cities on the list: Providence #20, Worcester #35, Springfield #85.