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Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time Hardcover – November 13, 2012
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Speck, coauthor of Suburban Nation (2000), believes America has a problem—actually, lots of problems—that can be solved by improving walkability in our cities. Public health, sustainability, and even the lagging economy, he argues, can be boosted by making cities more friendly for pedestrians. Drawing on his background as a city planner and architectural designer, Speck lays out a 10-step plan for changing the way we build and think about our public spaces. The steps are wide-ranging, from planting more trees and narrowing roads to investing in well-planned public transit systems and designing visually interesting buildings. Speck is at times blunt and doesn’t mince words about the roadblocks to walkability: “Traffic studies are bullshit.” But he makes a clear and convincing case for the benefits of revitalizing our public spaces in favor of foot traffic. Walkable City, in addition to being full of information about city planning and progress, is a remarkably readable book and moves along quickly because of Speck’s spirited writing and no-holds-barred attitude. An engaging book with a powerful message and achievable goals. --Sarah Hunter
“Jeff Speck, AICP, is one of the few practitioners and writers in the field who can make a 312-page book on a basic planning concept seem too short . . . For getting planning ideas into the thinking and the daily life of U.S. cities, this is the book.” ―Planning magazine
“Jeff Speck's brilliant and entertaining book reminds us that, in America, the exception could easily become the rule. Mayors, planners, and citizens need look no further for a powerful and achievable vision of how to make our ordinary cities great again.” ―Joseph P. Riley, mayor of Charleston, S.C.
“City planning and urban development are phrases almost guaranteed to bore and confuse regular people. Which is weird, given that cities are the least boring places on earth. Fortunately, Jeff Speck is a deeply knowledgeable, charming, and jargon-free visionary, a profoundly pragmatic person brimming with common sense everybody can use to improve their own lives as well as their towns and cities. If Jane Jacobs invented a new urbanism, Walkable City is its perfect complement, a commonsense twenty-first-century user's manual.” ―Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 and author of True Believers
“Cities are the future of the human race, and Jeff Speck knows how to make them work. In Walkable City, he persuasively explains how to create rational urban spaces and improve quality of life by containing the number one vector of global environmental catastrophe: the automobile.” ―David Owen, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Green Metropolis
“Companionable and disarmingly candid, Jeff Speck perches on your shoulder and gets you to see your community with fresh eyes. He gradually builds a compelling case for walkability as the essential distillation of a vast trove of knowledge about urbanism and placemaking. The case he makes has you both nodding at the intuitive and seemingly obvious wisdom presented, and shaking your head at why those basic principles of fixing our cities have eluded us for so long.” ―Harriet Tregoning, founder of the National Smart Growth Network
“Jeff Speck understands a key fact about great cities, which is that their streets matter more than their buildings. And he understands a key fact about great streets, which is that the people who walk along them matter more than the cars that drive through them. Walkable City is an eloquent ode to the livable city and to the values behind it.” ―Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic and author of Why Architecture Matters
“With Walkable City, Jeff Speck demonstrates why he is among the most relevant and engaging writers on urban design today.” ―Ron Bogle, president and CEO of the American Architectural Foundation
“When I speak around the country, people ask me what is the first thing they should do to start their community on the path of smart growth. I will now say: Read Jeff Speck's Walkable City.” ―Parris Glendening, governor of Maryland (1995–2003) and president of Smart Growth America's Leadership Institute
“Truly a book that is so very needed, Walkable City moves theory into action. We now know we need to build walkable urban places for all sorts of economic, social, and environmental reasons. Jeff Speck shows how to do it in the same clear style we came to love in the classic Suburban Nation.” ―Christopher B. Leinberger, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of The Option of Urbanism
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Top Customer Reviews
I encourage you to purchase Jeff Speck's book.
Wrong. This book is packed with astute insights into what makes for livable, lovable communities. Speck's genius, I think, is finding connections between seemingly disparate urban phenomena. And offering solutions that are pragmatic, implementable, and so, so...SIMPLE that it is hard to believe we have gotten it so wrong for so long.
I wish this book came out when I was wrapping up my latest book Making Transit Fun!: How to Entice Motorists from Their Cars (and onto their feet, a bike, or bus). My book is pretty good ;-) But it would have been better had I had Speck's book before mine went to press.
Best of all, Speck's literary style is engaging. This book is an easy read, an inspiring read, and a compelling read. I thought I was just going to flip through a few pages, maybe read a chapter or two, and then place it on my shelf alongside the dozens of other planning books. Wrong again. I was surprised how quickly I became absorbed in this book. Most planning books are drier than butter-less popcorn. Speck's book glides down the gullet with flavor.
I was particularly engaged by the three "E" features that were coming together: epidemiology, environment, and economics--that were clearly all in favor of urban density, mixed use, and transit oriented development (where it is appropriate). The book backs up these things with evidence on each count.
And then about a month later at a city meeting, here he was again. He's been working with my city planners in Somerville MA to turn our city into the top tier of walkable cities in the US. We are at the right place and right time: we are about to get several MBTA train stations, and currently have the chance to plan and strategize around them.
He acknowledges that we were born on 3rd base (and I don't dispute this). But he has evidence and methods that can help us be an incredibly walkable city. I think he has the goods. I hope we can act on it.
Certainly I have to admit that this book is delightful in part because it matches all of my cognitive bias (heh). I love cities (especially older ones), and I would love to live almost entirely without a car. Many of the examples he uses as both good and bad scenarios are places I've lived--so I know his facts are solid on those. But the text contains enough data and references that you can check the information with other sources, look at images on the web, and see that the story holds.
I wish it had contained more photographic evidence of some of the features he describes. Some of them he showed at our city meeting and they were very effective. But it is possible to seek them out in other ways with the internet, of course.
Certain hot-buttons (like traffic engineers and "starchitects") clearly earn some of Speck's ire. But obviously these stereotypes were for effect, and there are good actors on these things as well. And it will help me to recognize some of these things in the future at city planning meetings and have the ammunition to counter points or suggest alternatives that make more sense.
The breezy and engaging style (including citing The Onion and Monty Python, for example) allow you to quickly get the points, which are well made.
I will be recommending this book to my neighbors as we proceed through the next few years of getting our city enhancements. It will give them a sound basis to understand some decisions that might be hard to grasp at first. And I'm really looking forward to the future with more walkability, for everyone's benefit.