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Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time Paperback – November 12, 2013
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“A delightful, insightful, irreverent work.” ―The Christian Science Monitor
“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
“A recipe for vibrant street life.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Refreshing, lively and engaging . . . Walkable City isn't a harangue, it's a fun, readable and persuasive call to arms.” ―Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
“Everyone interested in improving the quality of city life should read this book and heed its lessons.” ―John Strawn, The Sunday Oregonian
“Among the perennial flood of books on urban design in all its forms, this one stands out.” ―John King, San Francisco Chronicle
“Walkable City is an energetic, feisty book, one that never contents itself with polite generalities. Sometimes breezy and anecdotal yet always logical and amply researched, this is one of the best books to appear this year. Speck deserves the widest possible readership.” ―Philip Langdon, Better! Cities & Towns
“Walkable City . . . will change the way you see cities.” ―Kaid Benfield, The Atlantic Cities
“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.
“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
After reading Speck's book, I now see my own lovely city and the many thousands that I've visited here and abroad over my life in a completely new light. This book gives me a context within which to understand why certain cities attract me and others do not. It is as if I now have a language to clearly understand cities for the first time. Honestly, you know how good it feels when you get eyeglasses for the first time and see what the world really looks like? Well, that's what this book did for me. I now see cities in a whole new light.
I only wish at this book could be read by my mayor, all my city councilmen, all the citizens on our planning commission, and all the citizens in my community that have the power to vote on our city's major land use initiatives.
This book is getting almost consistent five-star ratings. I can do little more than join in and whole-heartedly agree.
I just completed a journey to Greece and Western Turkey and it is blindingly how much more interesting an old, pre car built city is for walking than one that is car based. And how increased traffic can really bind up these cities. Too bad they look to the West for insight son how to handle this. Kind of like asking a heroin addict how to kick the habit.
Speck also does a great job of showing/ linking our car based designs to increased carbon footprints and how some thoughts in design can ameliorate/prevent self induced issues. That was again brought to me in the Turkish city of Marmaris which had many covered streets/bazaars that were very pedestrian oriented. This was in a city that has an average daily temp of 30 degs. Shade is really important. Terminal 2 in Heathrow, UK is another good example , which uses mostly north facing windows to prevent increased heat build up in the open plan building. Its is a good job. If you fly Star Allianace you can experience this.
I recommend this to anyone interested in living in a more interesting, energetic and vibrant city.
Walkability, as I read the book, requires some level of mass transit to in essence “create” pedestrians in the urban core. Not that no one can drive, but the more people who don’t, the more people who are on the urban streets. “Walkability explains how, to be favored, a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.” These terms are themselves quite subjective, but the author defines useful to mean that “***most aspects of life are located close at hand and organized in a way that walking serves them well”. Safe means “***that the street has been designed to give pedestrians a fighting chance against being hit by automobiles” . Comfortable means that “***buildings and landscapes shape urban streets into ‘outdoor living rooms’”, and interesting means “***that sidewalks are lined by unique buildings with friendly faces and that signs of humanity abound.” An example he gives of a city that lacks almost all technical aspects of walkability–good sidewalks, safe traffic, etc- but is wonderfully walkable because of being so interesting, is Rome. Anyone who has been there can appreciate the example. His basic premise is that walkablilty attracts creative people to our cities, enhancing both the culture and the economy, including the increased property values in walkable cities, as well as healthy citizens who walk or ride bikes more often. (As an aside, the author speaks a lot of Portland, Oregon-50 miles north of me-, and its commitment to walkability.)
Despite the ascribed benefits of walkability, the author posits that over the last 60 years, our country has made the automobile the master of the urban environment–and the environment in general. To create, or perhaps restore walkability, the car has to relegated to its position of servant rather than master. This can be done in many ways, including getting the parking issues right, and to the benefit of pedestrians. He also notes, as mentioned above, that walkable cities must have transit. Indeed, he points out that one need only trace the relative investment in highways versus transit in American and Canadian cities to see why the latter, who invested less in highways, have more walkable, and to the author, more vibrant cities.
The author goes into detail abut a great many subjects, but I will only explore one–traffic engineers. He does have a distinct bias against traffic engineers, saying most are trained to solve traffic problems, and thus the first step, at least for them, in solving every urban problem is to conduct a traffic study–usually aimed at how to better move traffic. He feels such studies are flawed for three reasons. First the computer models are flawed because, like all computer models they are only as good as the input; second, traffic studies are typically performed by firms that do traffic engineering; and third, traffic studies almost never consider what the author calls “induced demand”. The last consideration is very interesting, for the author, supported by studies, postulates that induced demand reflects the fact that increasing the supply of roadways lowers the “time cost” of driving, causing more people to drive, obliterating any reductions in congestion. In essence, investments in road capacity expansion do not ease congestion, but just add more cars to the highway. This is at first a bit counterintuitive, but, with a second thought, has a logical ring. If induced demand is a viable theory, then it has a doubly negative effect. It not only fails to reduce congestion, it adds more cars into the mix, reducing the possibility for walkability. So is congestion good? Contrary as it sounds, the answer might be “yes”. Indeed, the author notes that 7 of the 10 cities ranked worst for traffic also had “***excellent public transportation and a vast collection of walkable neighborhoods”. (The 3 that did not were Dallas, Houston and Atlanta.) Also, if induced demand is correct, why bother with spending fortunes to expand highways if you will end up with congestion anyway. I fund the whole “induced demand” scenario quite thought provoking.
This is not a “beach book”, or any type of “relaxing read”. It’s full of facts, theories and a bit of technical jargon. It is also quite informative and enlightening if one is interested specifically in urban planning, or more generally in reducing automobiles, increasing pleasant walkable urban environments, and making our cities more enjoyable for their residents.
I encourage you to purchase Jeff Speck's book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Jeff is an insider to the inner workings of the city and he was able to show them to us...Read more