Monday, September 22, 2008

European living comes to Washington

Washington is slowly developing a more “European atmosphere” as it thinks and plans its way into a new era of urban development. It is ironic that one of the reasons that some seem to be leaving the city - lack of parking and oppressive traffic - has become a force for change to create a bicycle and pedestrian friendly city with even fewer cars. In D.C. 37% of the population do not even own cars. Bike paths abound. With many new “grocery stores” within walking distances, the incentives to drive diminish. Melbourne has also treasured and managed to preserve its inner alleys - see “Laneways and other pedestrian amenities. It is encouraging to see Washington recognizing the value of “foot traffic” as it proceeds with the plans for development of the old convention center site.

“Redevelopment of the site [old convention center] will facilitate new connections, encouraging flow between diverse downtown communities: historic and predominantly residential neighborhoods to the north and mainly commercial office development to the south. In contrast to the imposing scale that characterizes the surrounding area, the project is designed to be human-scaled, highly permeable and pedestrian-friendly. A civic plaza forms the heart of the project and generous public spaces punctuate the whole neighborhood.”

The following was forwarded by PH - a fellow preservationist and green space planner with an interest and expertise in urban traffic flow

Laneways and other pedestrian amenities
Melbourne is filled with hidden "laneways" that cut between major streets downtown. The city has been steadily reclaiming these hidden treasures from traffic and disuse, and the laneways have become renowned for their charm, with al fresco eateries, boutique shops and bars. A number of inviting pedestrian arcades, reminiscent of those in Paris, can be found as well. Sidewalk build-outs for traffic calming are plentiful around town and are put to varied uses, including café seating and bike parking.

As he has been doing in New York City, Danish architect Jan Gehl has been working with the City of Melbourne to improve the quality of its public realm.

All in all, Melbourne is a wonderful place to explore on foot, by tram or by bike -- after you spend half an eternity getting there!
Photos: Ken Coughlin

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