Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pedestrian Scale Land Use Mix

If you want pedestrian interaction, your land use mix has to balance at the scale of the pedestrian. 
Obvious?  Yes. 
Ignored?  Absolutely. 

This does not bode well for the suburbs I love.

Areas that have succeeded in their bicycle and pedestrian systems (i.e. people use them) have land uses that are mixed within 1/4 to 1/2 mile scale, because that is all the casual user will casually walk.  Add in a bag or two of groceries and a stroller or a toddler and even 1/4 mile seems like a long way.  Employment mixing might stretch a bit farther but not much.  Recreation walks have been known to stretch to as much as a mile, but you're pushing it.  And, by the way, this means walk distance, not crow's fly distance--which can be a problem in the land of  subdivision walls and gates. 

Many communities prescribe land use mix in their LDR's and Comp Plans and then wonder why people don't walk.  Good land use mix can substantially reduce the length of your vehicle trip (not bad), but you won't get people out of their cars without draconian parking limitations combined with genuine proximity. 

As I was mulling this over, what came to mind is that although I live within 2/3 of a mile of a thriving downtown area that is connected to me through a true, traditional neighborhood, I almost never bike to it, much less walk to it.  Occasionally, on a warm spring day I might pull out the bike for a fun trip with the kids to the ice cream shop, but that's really only once or twice a year despite the fact that my area has some of the nicest bikable streets, paths and sidewalks anywhere.

How about you?  Do you walk any farther?  When?  How do you design for this?  I'd love to get some insights...