Cul-de-Sac Madness

The Congress for New Urbanism held a video contest, and the following entry won. It’s a good, short primer on the ills of suburbanism and what new urbanists are trying to do about it.

Or, go watch it in full size.

7 responses to “Cul-de-Sac Madness”

  1. Fantastic video. Very inspiring indeed.

    I guess the biggest roadblock in this theory is that there are too many families, such as mine, who would rather not raise their children in an urban environment for many reasons. If it’s about lowering our carbon footprint, I’d rather invest in a low-emissions family vehicle than move my family to an urban center. However, both those solutions, at this point, require a significant investment which many young families are unable to afford.

    Unfortunately being “green” isn’t very cheap, but hopefully as it becomes more and more mainstream, the costs will go down.

  2. @William New Urbanism can tend to forget the world outside of the city, true. The standard line is that the problem of the suburbs is that it’s neither urban nor country, but that it’s a caricature of country living in the city. New Urbanists say the solution to the suburbs is to build real, walkable, sufficiently densely populated cities where you don’t need a car to perform the tasks of everyday life.

    The generally unexplored flip side to this is that, if we need to let the city be the city, we also need to let the country be the country. Which means that rural areas should be used primarily for agriculture, or not at all.

    The best way to lower your emissions would be to lower your dependency on a car. Living within walking distance of your workplace, whether in a city or a small town, goes a long way. Maybe you could ditch your vehicle entirely, which would be both green and affordable. If there are occasional tasks which absolutely require a car, rent one for a day or use a taxi. Taking a taxi once or twice a week costs less than insuring your vehicle, never mind gas or car payments. And, in the long term, gas prices will make driving at all unaffordable for just about everyone, so it’s time to start planning for that future now.

    Anyway, some food for thought. :)

  3. Maybe you will be happy to hear that we intend to turn our 3.5 acre property, which is currently unused pasture, into a park containing dozens of fruit trees and shrubs. The idea is to create an organic U-pick type of business where people will be able to come and for a fee, fill their pails full of fruits and vegetables.

    I agree that the city and the country can not be combined very successfully. I would love to live in the city close enough to my workplace to walk, and if we didn’t have kids, we would likely do just that.

    Our goal is to eventually work out of our home completely, which would eliminate the need to drive anywhere on a daily basis.

    I was checking out the CNU website and found myself getting quite excited about what’s going on there. I really hope it catches on quickly.

    I heard that Winnipeg might be looking at possibly going to rail cars for public transportation. Have you heard anything about that?

  4. @becks Unfortunately, the answer is: with great difficulty over a long time with car culture kicking and screaming the whole way.

  5. @William Sounds like a fantastic use of your property. Isn’t it messed up that Winkler’s a farming town, and yet almost nothing eaten there is grown there?

    Yes, the CNU is doing terrific work, and they’ve accomplished much more than anyone could have expected. I just hope it’s not too late!

    As for rail transit in Winnipeg, I wish. There is a bus rapid transit corridor in development currently, with the idea that it could be converted to rail at some point. I won’t hold my breath, but any progress towards better public transit is better than none.

  6. i would like to address small-town sustainability.
    (this does not address farms out of town).

    i am no stranger to small town life.
    most pertinent is my 2.5 year experiment in an average canadian town. for reference, this town was roughly the size of winkler).

    i had a car while living there, and it mostly stayed parked. i biked or walked to work 90 percent of the time, carpooled on rainy/cold days with my coworkers, and walked to and from friends houses.
    sometimes i dressed for the weather and toughed it out, feeling better for it.

    i was not alone. lots of friends and families also didn’t use cars. their kids also had bikes. walking to the store took a while, but it was a slower pace of life, so you adapt.
    taking the kids on a grocery outing pulling your purchases in a wagon can turn a mundane activity into an adventure for kids. there’s so many things to explore along the way and people to bump into.

    the town had a small cab company and a car rental place for longer trips. the cabs were used semi-regularly — if you were late, needed a ride to the doctor, had to bring a large purchase home, etc.
    the rental cars were used to go on trips to beach or to go to the city, or to pick up a friend at the airport.

    my point is, if you live in a small town, (country excluded) you don’t really have an excuse to not think creatively about it. future oil scarcity will force you to adapt in time anyway.

    overall, it’s not a sacrifice, it’s really a better lifestyle. it’s safer, more sane, and more peaceful. — not to mention WAY less expensive.
    and kids are not an excuse either.
    (how often people love to use their kids to justify their actions! ex: “we need a bigger house and more stuff, it’s for the children”)

    kids love to run, walk, bike — even (or especially) in the rain and snow.
    kids DO NOT like to sit in the car and buckle up.
    not even if you medicate them with junk food and dvds.

    you CAN choose where you live. you can choose not to buy a house far at the edge of town. you can think about proximity to the school and grocery store. neighborhood matters.

    look around your small town. there are probably lots of people who don’t use cars.
    (you just don’t notice them as you rush by in your minivan with children shouting in the back).

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