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Monday News Roundup

May 14, 2012

It looks like summer is almost here! Happy sunny Monday– here’s a look at the highlights of last week’s interesting articles:

Dubai to Build Underwater Hotel (Architizer Blog)
From the vacuous iconicity of the Burj Khalifa to the ludicrous ambition of “the World”, Dubai’s tolerance for an asinine and radically depoliticized architecture has yet to be exceeded. See the latest conceptual project, Deep Ocean Technology’s proposed Water Discus Underwater Hotel.

Bike as Paintbrush, City as Canvas (The Atlantic Cities)
How a bike ride can honor the legacy of the late animal-wrestling Australian television host is a mix of powerful and pocket-sized technology, satellites, and one very creative man who uses his bike rides to paint city-sized digital pictures on the streets of Baltimore.

Tell us what you think! Urban Intervention Finalist Presentations (Arch Daily)
Urban Intervention challenged designers to conceive a fresh vision of environmental, social and economic opportunities on and beyond a nine-acre site at the heart of Seattle Center. 107 multidisciplinary teams from 24 countries entered designs. Each proposal harnessed Seattle’s history of innovation and civic engagement to inspire the next generation of great public spaces.

What Can the Bay Area Learn From the First Crop of Sustainable Communities Strategies? (SPUR)
In recent months, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego all passed their first Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS) in response to SB 375, the 2008 bill requiring a coordinated land use and transportation plan to reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions from driving in California. Those in the Bay Area have the advantage of being the last among the big regions to pass an SCS. What can they learn from the other regions about the implementation of SB 375 and the prospects for better regional planning statewide?

Urban Sustainability’s Missing Ingredient? Education (The Atlantic Cities)
“Helping the trees. Which provide oxygen.” …That was the uncertain (and somewhat serious) answer one college-aged woman gave when she was asked the question, “what does sustainability mean to you?” by a pair of George Washington University students. Unprompted, she then second-guessed her response: “The trees provide oxygen? Yeah.” This video illustrated the impediment these cities most frequently cited in their efforts to refocus their cities on the long haul: a lack of knowledge about sustainability.

Green Roofs Will Cover Toronto (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Back in January of 2010, Toronto became the first North American city to make installing green roofs on new commercial, institutional, and multifamily residential developments compulsory – now that requirements will apply to industrial developments as well.

DVA Forum: Amenity Equation Notes – Design Matters

By Graham McGarva, Founding Principal
VIA Architecture

Amenity started life as a qualitative indicator. In the Downtown Vancouver Association Forum Series our intention has been to foster mutual understanding of the personal values that shape our expectations of amenity in the city’s core.

There are two tracks that have woven in and out of this dialogue. One is urban growth, the accommodation and direction of growth, the “ask” of public benefit that is at the heart of granting of permission to develop new buildings.  The second is that of those already living and working within existing built infrastructure, and concerned about the conditions necessary for a healthy quality of life.

We have heard the importance of the amenity of being “just around the corner”, which is walkable and transit access to services that support daily life.  It is about dog walking as well as about commuting to and from work.  Increasingly it is about child-care, school, our social and arts cultures, and avoiding the hassle of using a car in the inner city.  Street benches are thereby essential building blocks for downtown amenity.

However the amenity equation has also been interpreted as a quantitative equation – specifically the equation that sits in the middle of the new development pro-forma.  So lots of comments zoom in on the “community amenity contribution”, both in dollar amounts and process.  In that equation the stubborn villain is the variable of land cost, and whether, when, and how, land price can be reduced.

The trouble is that we need to succeed on both sides of the equation, qualitative and quantitative, knowing that both balances will be judged wanting from one perspective or another.

I have often said “The goal of City Building is that the Café Canopy be in the right place”.  In order for that to happen:

  • There must be a peaceful civil society within which people’s take pleasure in a public realm
  • There must be an adequate population with access to this facility
  • There must be a level of comfort to mingle with people you do not know
  • The design must reinforce the attraction of being there

The amenity of the public realm is a pre-condition for a healthy city.  A healthy City is the only kind of City that we can afford.  It is the multitude of tiny pulses, the ‘cafe canopies’ for which we leave our cocoons and stretch our legs, that make the ‘big thing’ work.

The health analogy is deliberate and apt.  We need a City that operates as a resilient organism,  not a monolithic fossil; flexibility and resilience to continually rebalance affordability and amenity.  We need a culture of nimbleness, whose actions consider the long term trajectory of impacts.  This nimbleness is not natural to bureaucracies, whose tendency is to hold close to the established course regardless of political swings.  The answer is neither day to day knee jerk expediency nor not-in-my-term-of-office avoidance of key decisions. The answer lies in timely collection and assessment of evidence, and  consequent adjustment of the parameters.  It is not pantomime, but closer to rocket science, this continual pulling of strings.  It is annoying how reality keeps on changing, but it is even more annoying to sail full speed into an iceberg.

The 3rd and Final DVA Affordability / Amenity Forum is on Tuesday May 29th from 7:45AM to 9:00AM at BCIT Downtown Campus, Seymour Street.

The Panel is: Graham McGarva, VIA Architecture;  David McLellan, Vancouver Deputy City Manager; Al Poetcker, UBC Properties Trust: Gary Pooni,  Brook Pooni

Monday News Roundup

May 07, 2012

Happy sunny Monday! Here’s a taste of last week’s interesting articles, images, and headlines:

Can Inactive Landfills Become Assets? (The Atlantic Cities)
More than 6,000 landfills across the country are currently sitting inactive; as this recent article from Places shows, simply leaving these landfills to rot quietly out of our sight ignores the potential they carry – both on top and within.

Temporary Cities: The newest Urban Planning trend? (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Temporary Cities are intended to be impermanent solutions for permanent features of urban life. Some interesting examples of this trend include the m-hotel in London, and the weekend long mall that appeared in Cambridge, MA.

One World Trade Center, Now New York’s Tallest Skyscraper (Architizer Blog)
Last week, One World Trade Center passed the Empire State Building as New York’s tallest skyscraper, reclaiming the city’s skyline and reviving the race for height that originated in Manhattan but which was resolved with the building of the World Trade Center over 40 years ago.

A Bathroom Situated Atop a 15-Story Elevator Shaft (Colossal)
Guadalajara-based architects Hernandez Silva Arquitectos recently designed the interior of a new penthouse situated on top of a 1970s Mexican colonial building in Guadalajara, México. A notable feature of the home is a powder room situated atop an unused 15-story elevator shaft.

Give Me Space! 24 Compact Innovations For More Elbow Room (Web Urbanist)
As the urban landscape expands upward and outward, and space becomes an increasingly pricey commodity, stylistic compromises have to be made… or do they? Beautiful furniture designs are cropping up out of the need to save space.

Monday News Roundup

Apr 30, 2012

Good morning and happy Monday! Here’s just a few of last week’s interesting news items:

Ridiculously Imaginative Playgrounds by Monstrum (Colossal)
Danish firm Monstrum, founded by Ole B. Nielsen and Christian Jensen, are responsible for some of the most brilliant playscapes ever seen. From life-size blue whales, giant serpents, and wobbly castles, any one of these would have been my dream come true as a child.

America’s Best Cities for Transit, According to Walk Score (The Atlantic Cities)
The team behind Walk Score has just released a new study ranking the 25 best American cities for public transit, based on a new index they’ve dubbed Transit Score. Transit Score measures how well a location is served by public transportation using open data released by local public transit agencies. (Come on, Seattle- we can do better than # 7!)

Ten Ideas from #citytalk for Boosting Cycling in Cities (Sustainable Cities Collective)
The fourth edition of #citytalk entitled “Cycling and Cities” took place last week and was a great success, reaching close to 30,000 people. Sustainable Cities Collective was joined by the European Cyclist’s Federation and Iván De la Lanza from Ecobici, as well as the teams at Urban Times and Philips Livable Cities to try to unpack some of the barriers that are preventing bicycles from becoming a mainstream mode of transport in many cities.

May is National Bike Month (League of American Bicyclists)
National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride. Whether you bike to work or school; to save money or time; to preserve your health or the environment; to explore your community or get to your destination, get involved in Bike Month in your city or state — and help get more people in your community out riding too!

San Francisco Parklets – New Places for People

by Kate Howe, Urban Planner, VIA Architecture
Photo: Inner Sunset’s Arizmendi Bakery parklet

San Francisco’s parklet phenomenon is rippling out from the City’s tourist and downtown core. Last Friday, I attended a parklet ribbon-cutting on Mission Street in the Excelsior, the first of its kind in this South San Francisco neighborhood where access  to parks and open space is limited. Now, instead of two metered parking spaces along their busy commercial strip, there are benches, gardens, and art. The construction Excelsior’s parklet can be credited to a support from the SF Mayor’s Office of  Economics and Workforce Development. A grant went to two local non-profit groups, Excelsior Action Group (EAG) and Out of Sight (OOS) which used the grant money to engage 50 high school students as part of an after school program in the parklet’s initial concept design, and community outreach. The designs were then realized by Craig Hollow with Sagan Piechota Architecture who planned and supervised students in parklet construction over a series of weekends and their very rainy spring break. The result on the street is a demonstration of how tenacity and commitment can affect positive change.

Later that weekend, I also joined a San Francisco Bike Coalition tour that further explored parklets as a community-driven, quick method for neighborhood improvement. In the Inner Sunset, our group heard from a community activist who rallied his neighborhood and raised funds to place a parklet in front of a popular bakery (Arizmendi at 19th and Irving). He noted that few are now missing the parking spaces, and the public space now anchors the retail street. He sees the parklet as a first step for more street pedestrianizations, and has his eyes set on their nearby streetcar stop.

Outer Sunset’s Trouble Coffee parklet

My favorite parklet of all, Outer Sunset’s Trouble Coffee, hosts a remote gathering space of scavenged materials from driftwood and old fences, to a full sized tree spirited from City landscape crews.  The owner commended her parklet for its galvanizing effects, not only on her business (she saw her investment return in two months of sales) but also a place for neighborhood gathering.

As parklets spring up in a neighborhood near you, folks witness how much more can be done with 288 square feet of street.  According to Paul Chasan, the planner who joined our tour, the City is now experiencing growing pains as they try to keep pace with demand. Parklet popularity is also causing some internal battles as some question how many are enough, and when do we reach saturation- while public works is worried about how to ensure good maintenance.

As the next wave of parklets is constructed, I am, for one, hoping that creativity remains its driving force and that the City will bring its lessons learned to bare for an improved, affordable, and fast process that gives the streets back to the people.

Back to School: Retirement in a College Town

By Wolf Saar, Director of Practice, VIA Architecture
Photo: Cannon River, Northfield, MN

Retirement in a college town is a growing trend among seniors. As AP journalist Carole Feldman writes in her article More Retirees Head Back To College Towns“College is not just for the young. With many people seeking a retirement that is culturally active and intellectually stimulating, colleges and universities are working to bring retirees to their campuses and towns, offering them free or reduced-rate classes, artistic performances or lectures.”  This is an enticing prospect to ponder, particularly because Pullman, Washington, home to Washington State University, is on Real Estate’s list of top college towns for adults. Proximity to a college environment provides access to intellectual opportunities, arts, and culture. A smaller community can offer greater public safety and a livable, walkable environment easier to afford than in a large urban center.

The Pacific Northwest abounds with smaller communities that contain major higher education institutions. Besides Pullman, Ellensburg, two hours east of Seattle, is home to Central Washington University; Eastern Washington University is in Cheney (near Spokane); and Western Washington University is in Bellingham in northwest Washington. Oregon’s largest public universities are in the smaller communities of Eugene and Corvallis, and Kelowna is home to the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. Community colleges and private institutions expand this list of institutions that reside in smaller communities. Most of these institutions offer persons 65 and older tuition and fee waivers for auditing classes, a wonderful opportunity to expand knowledge, interact with people of all ages, and continue to participate and grow. But, this is merely the tip of the iceberg of what a college town offers.

Each college and department within the university routinely sponsors lectures, presentations, and events outside of the day-to-day curriculum. This provides a depth and richness of experience not always available in smaller communities. WSU’s School of Communications hosts the annual Murrow Symposium, which includes an annual lifetime achievement award; this year’s recipient is Dan Rather who will speak at the symposium this September in Pullman. Besides drawing leaders in their fields, college campuses draw world-renowned cultural events either directly or through other organizations in the community. Theater, music, concerts, as well as exhibitions of art and culture are all part of college life.

Being smaller towns, college communities tend to be walkable and affordable, catering to the limited budgets of students. Due to the demands of a student population, the amenities that a college town draws are often more extensive than a similarly-sized community that doesn’t need to cater to those needs. Businesses that would normally only be able to justify their existence in a larger population center can prosper in a smaller college community. Even though these are relatively compact communities, transit is typically available and robust, therefore reducing the need for a car on a daily basis. Diverse and interesting restaurants are typical of the college town and generally provide a range of choice that spans from fast food to five-star restaurants.

The fact that universities, by virtue of their connectedness to the world, demand ready access to transportation usually results in good airline, bus, or rail access, facilitating both travel from the community and access for out-of-town family and friends. This is of major importance to the active senior. This connectedness, as well as the student population itself, usually supports ample health facilities. Some universities even include medical research institutions within the campus, although none is as remote as to not provide ready access to the most sophisticated health care available in nearby urban centers.

Downtown Northfield, MN

So how does college town retirement really look? A few years ago I managed the design and execution of a project in Northfield, Minnesota that focused on creating a condominium community for persons aged 55 and over within a college town. Northfield is home to both Carleton College and St. Olaf College, two renowned private liberal arts colleges. Situated just 30 minutes south of Minneapolis/St. Paul, the community is home to about 20,000 permanent residents. Located along the banks of the Cannon River, Northfield, like many other communities in Minnesota, was a flour milling town, and still boasts the large Malt-O-Meal plant you pass as you enter town from the west.

St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN

It’s a quiet, mid-western town with a Main Street, tree-lined neighborhoods, and a small town atmosphere. This environment is energized by activities associated with the colleges, including concerts by the famous St Olaf Choir. This rich, intellectually stimulating environment has grown a remarkable organization focused on seniors.

In the spirit of “life-long learning,” the Cannon Valley Elder Collegium provides high-quality academic experiences in the humanities for students over age fifty. The faculty members of the Collegium, predominantly retirees themselves, include emeriti faculty from the colleges and retired public school teachers. The focus on “life-long learning” has led to the development of course offerings selected from the liberal arts. A curriculum to challenge participants with serious academic course work is offered to participants and is based upon the personal favorite courses of the instructors, developed during life-long teaching careers. Most courses have a seminar format with learners participating in research and dialogue. There are no prerequisites and previous formal education is not a requirement. Collaborative leadership is encouraged — all participants (faculty and students) have opportunities to take part in forming policy, deciding course offerings, selecting instructors, and evaluating courses.

Cannon Valley Elder Collegium

At the Village on the Cannon, the community includes a library as the focal point as one enters, study carrels, large tables for collaboration, and a large multi-purpose designed as a lecture classroom. These amenities mirror the facilities available at the local colleges and provide the spaces to support the pursuit of learning. Several of the residents are retired teachers and professors, adding to the richness of the community.

Intellectual stimulation keeps us healthier, more connected, active, and feeling relevant as we advance in years. The stimulation goes both ways. The interaction with a university or college provides mutual inter-generational learning opportunities. Although my own son attended community college classes in the midst of “urban” Seattle, he would come back with great stories about his conversations with students in his classes who were in their sixties. As fellow students, elders provided a frame of reference that he had not previously experienced in an academic environment.

As an architect who more recently has been designing communities for seniors in need of assisted living, my pondering goes to the stage of life where an active senior needs more assistance and care. What happens when being a physically “active” senior is no longer possible? Turning back to the example of Northfield, a virtual continuing care retirement community was created by co-locating an assisted living community next to the seniors’ condominium community. This came about through negotiations between the for-profit developer of the Village and the not-for-profit developer of Millstream Commons, the assisted living community. Three Links (a part of the Oddfellows organization) purchased a parcel of land from Collegeville Communities, the developer of the Village. Three Links engaged the same team to design and execute the assisted living community, and we were able to provide such elements as shared access, walkable linkages between the buildings, and ability for the two separate properties to connect. The Cannon Valley Elder Collegium serves Millstream Commons as well as Three Links independent and skilled care communities located elsewhere in Northfield.

Millstream Commons

As established livable, walkable, and sustainable communities, college towns offer up those great attributes that we seek and treasure in our urban centers. They are quieter and offer safety and affordability not always attainable in an urban context, while providing plentiful and robust cultural and intellectual opportunities. The stimulation and interaction so vital to aging successfully in community exists in these places and provides an alternative that is sure to continue to attract seniors back to our college towns.

Monday News Roundup

Apr 09, 2012

Happy sunny Monday morning! Here are last week’s interesting bits:

The End of Sprawl? (The Atlantic Cities)
The story is built around a detailed analysis (supported by a terrific interactive map) of census data on population growth. The authors compared the data from 2006 with data from 2011.

The 100 Mile House (ArchDaily)
If you could construct your house out of materials made, recycled, or found within 100-miles of your lot, would you? And if you did, would you feel proud that you never once stepped into The Home Depot? Would you tout the fact that you took an environmental stand, that you did your bit to help the world?

Seattle Spaces, Gray or Great: They don’t just fall from the sky (City Walker)
Our truly public spaces, the ones that belong to the city and are maintained through city funds are bleak because there are no funds for operations and maintenance. If there is a lovely living landscape, someone has to maintain it.

Swimming Pool Balconies, Bad Idea? (Architizer)
Photos of a possibly risky idea included in the plan for a Mumbai apartment tower.

Subway Platforms From Around the World (The Atlantic Cities)
From the preserved layers of history on the walls in Athens, to the sterile, somber curves in Washington, D.C, each system’s platform offers unique insight into its personality. Varying from utilitarian to whimsical, The Atlantic Cities put together a sampling of platforms from the famous and not-so-famous subway systems around the world.

Squint to See: Almost-Abstract Aerial Photography Series (Web Urbanist)
While taking a community planning course in the midst of his architecture degree program, Alex MacLean was introduced to aerial photography. This introduction would turn out to be a fateful one.

By Graham McGarva, Founding Principal, VIA Architecture

Three key statements from the DVA Forum held on March 27th on Vancouver’s Affordability/Amenity dilemma illustrated the paradoxical nature of the competing forces that must be resolved to maintain any equilibrium in Vancouver’s expectation of livability. Such as:

  • We need more older homes
  • Transit is not about transit, it is about childcare
  • Where is Vancouver?

With the focus of the Forum being “Realities”, a key issue was raised as to whether we have the will to “Rewrite the Amenity Contract.”  Our urban development system has been based on the premise that growth pays for new or expanded amenities, and that property taxes for existing residents are kept as low as possible.  User pay is increasingly an element in programs such as at community centres, in which participation can be seen as discretionary.  However, two essential amenities are vulnerable to dysfunction through the expectation of low property taxes: mass transportation and child care.  Sufficient and affordable child care is essential for a liveable city.  This includes neighbourhood parks and playgrounds, kindergarten, pre-school and after school, in addition to formal elementary and secondary education.  The private car, with its $600 per month average cost, is beginning to recede as the default transportation option, particularly among younger families.  So, mobility access via bus and rapid transit for work, home, and child care, and location of this trinity within immediate reach of the frequent transit network becomes the essential amenity.

Downtown Vancouver has amazed everyone with the number of children clamouring to register for grades one through three at Elsie Roy Elementary in False Creek/Yaletown.  A second Downtown Elementary school at International Village is at the top of the School Board’s priority list for capital funding (the site has already been turned over to the City by the land developer).

However, day care centres are still too thin on the ground, and many young families leave downtown solely for that reason.  Another reason that draws families out of downtown is that by about grade four, the amenity-rich environment for young kids is no longer supportive of the needs of children, neither in terms of out of school programs nor places to assert their growing independence ( itself a topic of broader societal debate).  The omnipresent issues of compressed space in most apartments become larger issues in the lack of supportive amenity to grow up outside the home.  In fact the West End, with its stock of larger, older apartments as well as a High School provides a more supportive child-raising environment.  This data is now being seen in school enrolments and real estate transactions.

A model is emerging whereby Downtown living becomes a time rather than a place.  The expectation has changed over a couple of decades whereby urban amenities activities are what are desired in greater and greater proportion.  Accordingly, the development in the urban nodes of suburbia is increasingly rising in expectation, while the lower land price pressure on the new housing stock improves the raw cost component of housing affordability. The two other axes of the amenity trinity need policies and regulations that address the realities of the present 21st Century amenity dilemma, as opposed the set of expectations that drove the closing decades of the last century.

Other icebergs, whose tips were only briefly touched upon, included the importance of the arts, formal and informal, in urban culture, and that “retirees are not all about health care.”

In addition to the discussion, many of the fifty participants in the forum, gave written ‘snapshots’ commenting on the specifics of affordability and amenity dilemmas that they live with.  All of this material will be carried forward to the second DVA forum at BCIT Downtown Campus on Tuesday April 24th from 7:30-9:00am, where the question of priorities will be explored.

Participants on April 24th from 7:30am to 9:00am:


  • Jennifer Podmore Russell, Deloitte and Touche
  • Gordon Price, SFU City Program
  • Geoff Meggs, Vancouver City Councillor


  • Graham McGarva, VIA Architecture, DVA Vice President

Monday News Roundup

Apr 02, 2012

Happy April! Here are the interesting news bites that the last week of March had to offer:

Leverage the Golden Gate Transportation Monopoly (Sustainable Cities Collective)
You may not realize it, but the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transit District has an effective monopoly on travel to San Francisco from Marin.  If you take transit, of course, you’re using GGT, but if even if you drive you have a toll to pay.  This gives the district enormous market power to influence the travel decisions made by Marinites, power that it should use for good.

Why Community-Based Planning Works Better Than Anything Else (the Atlantic Cities)
The characteristics that make a city neighborhood great are by no means restricted to upscale developments. Indeed, sometimes older, low- or moderate-income neighborhoods exhibit greater continuity and stronger bonds – a stronger sense of what we call ‘community’ – than do those with higher incomes.  As a result, they can sometimes be the source of extraordinary achievement in urban revitalization.  There may be no more inspiring example of this than the neighborhood surrounding Boston’s Dudley Street, an avenue that runs through the city’s Roxbury district.

MapAttack App Turns Any City into a Virtual Gameboard (Web Urbanist)
The MapAttack! smartphone app for Android phones and iPhones can turn any neighborhood or park into a virtual game board for four to twenty players, encouraging exploration of urban environments.

Illustrating a Commute, One Rider at a Time (the Atlantic Cities)
For the past year, British illustrator Steve Wilkin has used his hour-long commute on the 7:38 a.m. train from the town of Hebden Bridge toward the city of Preston to sketch his fellow passengers in all their commuting glory.

Tehran Tower / CAAT Architecture Studio (ArchDaily)
To combat the harsh reality of the extreme air pollution caused by urban sprawl in Tehran, CAAT Architecture Studio proposed building up, locating massive skyscrapers within the city to house masses of residents centrally.

When a Parking Lot Is So Much More (The New York Times)
The parking lot is the antithesis of nature’s fields and forests, an ugly reminder of the costs of our automobile-oriented society. But as long as we prefer to get around by car (whether powered by fossil fuel, solar energy or hydrogen), the parking lot is here to stay. It’s hard to imagine an alternative.

100 Ways To Conserve [Water] (Water Use It
There are a number of ways to save water, and they all start with you.

Modern design, retro touches: Here comes the new 520 bridge (The Seattle Times)
Construction on the Highway 520 bridge is finally getting down to water level this week, as workers will soon build the fixed sections that extend up from Lake Washington to the Eastside.

At VIA, we’re passionate about living in and contributing to functional walkable and bikeable communities. Our lives are enriched daily by the benefits of being lucky enough to live in cities like Seattle and Vancouver- both hugely bike, transit, and pedestrian-friendly. Benefits of walkable cities range from the obvious- healthier residents and ease of community access, to benefits on a more macro level- lowered crime rates, the rage against climate change, and an overall sense of community livelihood and well-being.

This week, we’ve seen a few interesting bits on bikeable and walkable neighborhoods come through our news feed. Here’s a collection of some of those bits:

The True Cost of Unwalkable Streets, from The Atlantic Cities
This article, through a collection of graphics and images, highlights the American obesity epidemic using informative graphs and statistics, linking those stats to the shapes of our built environments. The article also notes the dangers in many areas of being a cyclist or pedestrian, stating that some streets are just not “complete” in a way they need to be to encourage a more free-flowing pedestrian culture.

The Benefits of a Walkable Neighborhood
“Walking In Your Neighborhood: It’s Not Just a Mild Workout”, from, whose motto is “Drive Less, Walk More”, shares the benefits of creating compact, walkable communities as opposed to poorly planned sprawl.

On, you can also check the “Walk Score” of your current city or neighborhood, or do some research on a new place to hang your hat (and put on your walking shoes) that would be more conducive to an active walking/cycling lifestyle.

Out of a possible 100, Seattle as a whole (taking into account N Seattle, S Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Redmond + Sammamish) scores a 74 for walkability (Very Walkable), and its ‘hoods score higher individually- Denny Triangle scores a 98, Capitol Hill scores a 91, Uptown scores an 89, Downtown scores a 93, and Ballard scores a 94. Metro Vancouver, BC is a Walker’s Paradise with an overall score of 90, and awesome neighborhood scores: 98 in Gastown, 95 in Yaletown, 97 in Chinatown, and 87 in False Creek. To give some perspective to our local scores: Scottsdale, AZ rates a whopping 42, and pedestrian-oriented Boston, MA as a whole checks in at 79 (with neighborhoods jumping into the 98 range).

How Walkable Streets Can Reduce Crime, from
This article touches on interesting points, such as how, in addition to fostering a walkable culture, keeping a city clean can discourage crime occurrence and severity.

Some other great resources to help you stay informed include Bikeable Communities, a go-to network for bicycle-friendly community enthusiasts; The #Walkable Communities Daily on, a daily gathering of interesting articles and Tweets on related topics; and popping into Twitter for a search of #walkable or heading over to a search engine for the latest.