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Taking the Guesswork out of Designing for Walkability

Xiongbing Jin, Fanis Grammenos, Planetizen
The lack of adequate pedestrian behavior models means that designing for walkability has largely remained a matter of intuition. However, agent-based simulation can provide insight into the keys for creating pedestrian-friendly places…

As each built neighbourhood comes with its own idiosyncratic design elements, generalization is risky. There is no room for experimentation with the physical environment either. Consequently, designing for walkability largely remains a matter of intuition.

A New, Promising Design Tool
A relative newcomer in the field of modelling behaviour patterns – agent-based simulation – can empower planners to go beyond intuition and predict the outcomes of design decisions at the neighbourhood scale in surprising detail. In addition, it allows “what if” explorations, testing planning scenarios and implementations with ease…
(21 May 2013)

Biking can be cool…until you’re a teen girl

A.K. Streeter, Treehugger
As part of the Family Activity Study (FAS) undertaken by Dr. Jennifer Dill and colleagues at Portland State University, researcher Tara Goddard has supported with some data the idea that attitudes toward biking change when girls become teens.

Dill and colleagues wanted to learn through the multi-year, longitudinal study how parents and children get to where they need to go, and how families use active transportation like walking and biking.

The study involved inner-city Portland neighborhoods slated to get neighborhood greenways, those low-speed residential streets that have bike icons painted on them to encourage cars to share the road with bikes, and to drive slower for pedestrians…

Goddard found that the cool factor, if it can be called that, plays a role in perceptions of bike riding. Girls who reported that they don’t like riding a bike were more likely to say that their friends don’t think biking is cool, and vice versa: girls who said they like to bike also reported their friends say it is cool to do so…
(29 May 2013)

Big Bad Rivers of Wolves
Linton Hale
Long ago, in the time of our great-grandparents, the big bad wolf had a function. Scary stories of predators were a sensible warning and effective incentive to stay out of the woods at night else be eaten. Today our big bad wolf is the automobile. We know this, and we forget this, and so need to remind each other every day of the great dangers we impose on ourselves by maintaining our very own big bad rivers of wolves.

In the future, in the time of our great-grandchildren, the combustion engine will be illegal. Just as mercury and DDT have been outlawed in our time, it will be seen as criminal or at best ignorant that we wasted so much energy burning fuel, and poisoning ourselves, our lands and our oceans. We will be remembered as a primitive people with little regard for future generations.

Simply put, our use of cars is directly stealing from our great-grandchildren. Moving tons of metal to commute, to go to the movies the grocery store or to visit friends, is wasting energy we could be using to build energy systems that will actually last. Shipping sugar water and frozen convenience foods thousands of miles requires staggering quantities of fuel every day. Our irresponsible actions are quantifiably poisoning all that we depend upon for basic sustenance.

I am one of the lucky ones. A few years ago I had a big bad seizure. I was taken to the emergency room and forthwith forbidden to drive for a few months. I know now, not just in theory but fully in my body and soul, that biking and taking the bus to work feels great. I also know that I am capable of doing it. I did not know this before. I would not have believed I could do it without major hardship. I am certain I would not be biking and taking the bus to work if I had not been given the gift of being forbidden to drive. Happily, I now view cars from a different perspective. It has been a true blessing—physically, emotionally and socially. I recommend it (just the perspective, not the seizure!).

I have become more aware of the many ways that walking, biking and riding public transport have great potential to connect us. Being on foot or bike amongst our big bad wolves, I see more clearly the many ways cars separate, slowly poison, and directly kill us. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am happier every day I am outside feeling the weather, experiencing a deeper understanding of time and space, and enjoying the relationship between myself and other living things.

In the time of our great-grandchildren we will be in a better place, beyond our big bad rivers of wolves.
(28 May 2013)

Tame wolf image via schneelocke/flickr