Eco-Living Magazine

If the Weather Outside is Frightful, Can the City Still Be Delightful?

Posted on the 23 January 2013 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

The secret is out. The future success of our cities can be boiled down to one entity, the pedestrian. But I live in Ann Arbor, MI and it is cold and snowy. How can one of the supposedly best walking cities in America be great when it is uncomfortable and unsafe to walk on snow and ice covered sidewalks for many months of the year? Even in DC, another great walking city, snow plows push snow onto sidewalks and volunteers are needed to clear sidewalks. Is there a way to make great walking cities in the north?
Even in the winter, great cities should protect the pedestrian and welcome bikes. Walkable City: How Downtown can Save America, One Step at a Time by urban planner extraordinaire Jeff Speck argues that four major factors point to the opportunity provided by walkable downtowns:

  • there are existing historic downtowns with underutilized infrastructure and great architecture,
  • the majority of the next generation of American households are looking for smaller homes,
  • people live longer, healthier lives if they walk more, and
  • a resident in New York City has ⅓ the carbon footprint as someone living in the suburbs.

Even the great prognosticator Nate Silver’s regression model seems to show a decline in driving and data shows the percent of teenagers getting their driver’s license is going down. Walking is essential to great cities.

Some cities have public awareness campaigns encouraging people to comply with snow removal regulations. In an Ann Arbor Downtown Parking Study by the consultant Nelson/Nygaard, one of the immediate recommendations was to maintain all-season sidewalk access so as to maximize downtown’s access for all non-driving trips. Ann Arbor created a Business Improvement Zone (BIZ), or self-taxing entity, to ensure that sidewalk snow removal would happen. Maybe the key is just a functioning, funded, and enforced snow removal system? But can that system also help me remember to bring my gloves?

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