“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” — Jane Jacobs, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’
This year, Jane’s Walk will be held on the weekend of the 4th and 5th of May. Jane’s Walk is an exciting event that orginated in Canada with the purpose of promoting the legendary ideas and legacy of urbanist Jane Jacobs.
Free walking tours are led by locals in a community who want to to create a space for residents to talk about what matters to them in the places they live and work. Jane’s Walk encourages people to explore their neighbourhoods and meet others in their community.
Since its inception in Toronto in 2007, Jane’s Walk has expanded rapidly and in May 2011, 511 walks were held in 75 cities in 15 countries worldwide.
The vision of Jane’s Walk is for walkable neighbourhoods, urban literacy and cities planned for and by people.
A recent Planning Issue post referred to Playstreets in New York, a concept whereby individual streets in a neighbourhood are temporarily closed to allow children to freely play without concerns about traffic danger. Apparently something similar has also been occurring in the U.K. where Playing Out was initiated by two Mums wanting their children to have the same opportunity to play outside in the street, as they had as kids.
Watch the Playing Out video below, to get inspired about what we can gain when we take cars out of the equation temporarily, and what this means for kids and the wider community.
The Australian Government’s recently released draft report, Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport explores how Australian governments can work with businesses and the community to increase the mode share of walking, riding and public transport.
The report acknowledges that getting more people regularly walking, riding and catching public transport is likely to result in a range of positive outcomes across a wide range of policy areas and that increasing the mode share of walking, riding and public transport can contribute towards:
increased capacity in the transport network
improved public health and reduced healthcare costs
improved community wellbeing and social cohesiveness, and
reduced environmental impacts.
Actions that it identifies to increase the mode share of active transport (walking, riding and using public transport) include:
PLANNING – By including walking and riding when planning for land use and transport.
1. Working within a clear hierarchy of planning
- Integrating land use and transport planning; and identifying principal walking and riding routes in state, regional and local plans.
2. Designing networks of continuous, convenient connections.
- Enabling short walking and riding trips for transport purposes; improving access to and within major activity, employment and education centres; and improving access to public transport stops.
BUILDING - By building appropriate infrastructure for walking and bicycling needs.
3. Creating safe environments for pedestrians and cycle riders.
- Separating pedestrians and riders from vehicles, particularly in high-speed and high-volume traffic; sharing road space, with appropriate speeds, in high-pedestrian environments; and recognising the vulnerability of bicycles as road vehicles.
4. Incorporating pedestrian and bicycle facilities when building other infrastructure.
- Recognising ‘positive provision’ policies of states and territories; avoiding costly retrofitting; and incorporating mid- and end-of-trip facilities.
ENCOURAGEMENT – By encouraging greater participation in walking, riding and public transport.
5. Leveraging infrastructure investment.
- Considering programs and incentives to encourage greater participation in walking, riding and public transport; and improving awareness and skills in the broader population.
6. Providing consistent standards and guidelines, monitoring and evaluation
- Supporting nationally consistent guidance and sharing of best practice; improving monitoring and evaluation; and developing nationally consistent decision-making processes.
It also points out that the construction of walking and riding infrastructure is relatively inexpensive compared with other modes of transport – for example, it costs an average $1.5 million per kilometre to plan and build a separated bicycle path. This compares with the cost of constructing other modes as follows:
one kilometre of light rail costs the equivalent of 49 kilometres of bikeway
one kilometre of motorway/road costs the equivalent of 110 kilometres of bikeway
one kilometre of busway costs the equivalent of 138 kilometres of bikeway
one kilometre of road tunnel costs the equivalent of 324 kilometres of bikeway
one kilometre of underground rail costs the equivalent of 533 kilometres of bikeway.
It seems that everyone is having a go at the New South Wales (NSW) planning system.
In March 2011 the Liberal National Coalition came into power in NSW with the grand promise to review and reform the State’s planning system with a focus on ‘returning
local planning powers to local communities’. An independent panel to undertake a review of the planning system was established, resulting in The Way Ahead for Planning in NSWVolume 1 (Major Issues)and Volume 2 (Other Issues), followed by a Green Paper.
The Property Council of Australia has provided creative feedback to the review process, with a fictionalised account of the development assessment process in NSW. ‘Planning Gone Mad’ is “intended as a ‘cautionary tale’ – a warning from users of the planning system, against progressing reform options which do not address the ingrained culture of poor implementation, lacklustre customer service and absence of accountability at the local government level.” We look forward to the feature film!
Once the NSW Government has considered feedback on the Green Paper, a White Paper will be released, providing details on how the new system will be implemented. However don’t hold your breathe for planning reform to ensue, as this is one of many planning reviews to have occurred over the decades
Major changes outlined in the Green Paper included:
involving the community early in guiding planning decisions that will shape the growth and future of our cities, towns, and neighbourhoods
placing much more emphasis on preparing good policies upfront to guide growth and development
reducing red tape and delay for the assessment of development applications for all types of proposals
ensuring that infrastructure is planned and delivered to support new and existing communities
promoting a ‘can do’ culture in the planning system and ensuring that councils and the government are accountable for delivering the results they have committed to
providing greater access to information about planning policies, planning decisions, and your rights in the planning process.
We will keep you posted on how the review progresses……stay tuned!
‘Beauty and the Geek’ is one of those shows that is so bad you just must watch it.
Even better, this season features self-confessed “geek” town planner Jason. Apparently Jason has an entire catalogue of kooky dance moves from the “no bones”, where he swings himself around in a limbless manner, so it appears he is boneless, to the “wiggle” in which he wriggles around doing the twist like a worm….might have learnt this from trying to dodge bullets working for local Council?
Can’t wait to see who he hooks up with. If you can bare to watch it, tune in at 8.30pm Thursday 4 October 2012 on Channel 7. To find out more about planning read What is Urban Planning?
American cities have inspired critical analysis ranging from Jane Jacobs ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ to Kunstler’s ‘Home From Nowhere’, but what debates, ideas and critiques has the Australian urban landscape generated?
Here are five top contenders for classic Australian town planning texts, what else would you add?
1. The Australian Ugliness by Robin Boyd (1960)
Australian architect Robin Boyd’s 1960 book, ‘The Australian Ugliness’ investigates the Australian architectural and suburban aesthetic and coins the term “featurism” to describe it. Boyd proposes that education in design can be a means to resolve the ugliness he observes. After the first publication of this book, Boyd was criticised for being unpatriotic. However the book became an influential best seller and opened up debate in Australia about design, architecture and urban planning.
2. Ideas for Australian Cities by Hugh Stretton (1970)
Historian, Hugh Stretton argues for a revival of the old Australian capacity for inventive political action. He explores two unique planning experiments in Australia, the cities of Adelaide and Canberra and argues that civilised cities can be built if people want them, by methods already tried and proven in these two cities. ‘Ideas for Australian Cities’ describes itself as “a book about Australians, their values and equalities, and what they can do to keep their cities human.”
3. Cities for Sale by Leonie Sandercock (1975)
Sandercock looks at Australia’s unique planning problems, as well as issues of international significance including the struggle for conservation and the choice between immediate popular solutions to planning problems and long-term ‘expert’ ones.
‘Cities for Sale’ considers the failure of town planning in Australia and looks at three leading cities, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and their aimless sprawl during the twentieth century. Sandercock describes old property owners and modern ‘technocrats’ as frustrating efforts to improve the physical environment, and the impact that deifying economic growth has had on attempts to remedy social ills.
4. The Perils of Urban Consolidation by Patrick Troy (1996)
In the 1990s Australian urban planners became increasingly excited about the benefits of urban consolidation for sprawling Australian cities. Troy released his controversial and much discussed book in 1996, considering the benefits of suburban development and the downsides of urban consolidation. Significant for its timeliness in the discussion about the pros and cons of increasing the density of our cities, Troy’s book ‘The Perils of Urban Consolidation’ continues to provide a catalyst for this ongoing debate.
5. Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence by Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy (1999)
Sustainability and Cities is one of many publications by Newman and Kenworthy that is regularly referenced in planning policy. It makes the case that the essential character of a city’s land use results from how it manages its transportation, and that only by reducing automobile dependence can we be successfully accommodate all elements of the sustainability agenda. This has since formed an integral part of many planning arguments on why urban consolidation and more compact cities are needed.
Thanks to for use of this article on the ‘Fat of the land: how urban design can help curb obesity’ by Billie Giles-Corti, University of Melbourne and Carolyn Whitzman, University of Melbourne.
Giles-Corti and Whitzman discuss below, how we can change our obesogenic environment through urban design.
Compared with our grandparents, feeding, clothing, and entertaining ourselves has never been easier: a one-stop weekly shopping centre trip in a car, facilitated by convenient parking and light-weight maneuverable shopping trolleys that allow us to whiz around the supermarket with ease.
In fact, these days people don’t even need to leave home to do their food shopping, order takeaway food, bank or pay bills, shop for clothing or household goods, “visit” with their friends, read the newspaper or amuse themselves. Using the internet or telephone, activities that used to involve some level of activity or a short walk, can be done with “anywhere, anytime” convenience.
If we couple this lifestyle of convenience with a media environment that advertises and provides an attractive array of easily-accessed, low-cost and tasty, high-fat, high-sugar foods – it’s not surprising that obesity is such a huge problem.
Australia is one of the global leaders in the obesity epidemic, with two-thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of Australian children, overweight or obese. Alarm bells are ringing in health circles about the impact this will have on all the major preventable diseases: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. These diseases will get worse unless we can help people maintain a consistent belt size throughout their life.
Poor diet, lack of physical activity and other sedentary behaviours are the main culprits in the obesity epidemic. People choose how active they are and what they eat. But their local environments – their neighbourhood, local parks and streets, as well as their homes, workplaces and schools – provide opportunities and barriers that affect those choices.
There’s widespread agreement that we’ve created obesogenic environments that encourage both inactivity and overeating. So what can be done about it?
For a start, we could improve neighbourhood design to get people out of their cars and onto the streets. People are more likely to walk and cycle if they live in safe, compact, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods characterised by connected street networks, access to nearby destinations such as shops and parks, mixed uses of building such as housing above shops, and high population density.
People living in the suburban sprawl walk less, drive more, and spend more time in sedentary pursuits, such as watching television or cruising on the internet, than those living in compact, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods. We need to plan services in new communities so that schools, shops, public transport, and parks arrive at the same time as housing – so that residents can develop good walking, cycling and public transport habits from the outset.
At the same time, we need to share the resources available in established suburbs closer to the city where there’s already good access to parks, jobs, and public transport. This means increasing the number of people who live in inner-city suburbs and giving more people access to existing shops and services.
We also need to think about quality and access to open space: parks, ovals, play grounds, and school grounds. The way open space is designed gives people cues about how it is to be used – is this open space simply for vandals and hoons, or does it say to local residents (regardless of age), “this space is open for active business, come and join in”?
Similarly, we need to make the most of what’s called “blue space” – waterways, such as creeks, lakes, rivers and beach fronts. We know that in wealthy areas, blue spaces are opened up and invite the public to be active with walking and cycling paths, but is this true in lower-income areas?
There’s growing evidence that people who drive long distances to work are more likely to gain weight. Reducing commute times would not only be good for the environment, it would also be good for our waistlines – particularly if it involved walking or cycling to rapid public transport. This requires the right types of jobs to be available locally – what type of local business activation models could assist?
We need to give people choices so that healthy options are easy to pick – in neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces. Policies ensuring there’s plenty of fruit, water, and healthy take-away food – not just high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar alternatives – give people the opportunity to make healthier choices.
Providing access to community garden spaces encourages children and adults to develop a love of fresh food has the potential to have a positive impact on our waistlines too.
And we need to think carefully, as a community, about how happy we are about the way unhealthy food is marketed and actively promoted so readily to children and young people. This normalises unhealthy food choices. We may need restrictions on the marketing of fast food to children in the mass media, at school and at sporting events.
These are choices to be made not only by individuals and families, but also by society. Planning and policy interventions are crucial to correct a serious market failure that is promoting unhealthy lifestyles, at the expense of the health and well-being of the nation and the future life expectancy of our children.
We have choices to make as a society. We know what we prefer – how about you?