Why city blocks work

first_imgConventional wisdom says that smaller city blocks are better for pedestrians. Research on urban form has traditionally suggested that smaller city blocks are better for foot traffic, and prominent urbanists have advocated them as key promoters of pedestrian access.  Urban planner Leon Krier pointed to the enhanced diversity and complexity of activity generated by smaller city blocks, while the late activist Jane Jacobs noted increased interactions and encounters among pedestrians on smaller grids. But the relationship between block size and walkability appears to be more complex and variable than previously thought. In some cases, researchers now say, larger city blocks may actually be better for pedestrians and communities. Andres Sevtsuk, assistant professor of urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and director of the City Form Lab, and co-researchers Raul Kalvo and Onur Ekmekci recently reached this conclusion in research published in the journal Urban Morphology. They analyzed a number of well-known cities for their current and potential walkability. They found that while Portland, Ore., could see walkability increase with larger blocks, it turns out that New York City’s street plan, laid out in 1811, remains near ideal. Sevtsuk talked with the Gazette about how city plans shape the pedestrian experience, and where this research could go in the future.  GAZETTE: How do urban planners define walkability, and what about walkability and city blocks do you study in your research?SEVTSUK: Walkability is a complicated term. It’s like sustainability. It’s an umbrella term, and there’s a lot going on underneath it. But generally speaking, researchers agree that there are at least two critical ingredients to any environment being walkable. First, an environment has to offer destinations to walk to. Second, walking paths have to be comfortable and safe. In the urban design and planning professions, there is a widely shared belief that for walkability, smaller blocks are always better. This assumption is so common that many transportation studies, too, use urban block size as a predictor for walking activity. We wanted to question that, and find out if that really is the case, and what’s at play here. There are surprisingly few studies about why particular dimensions have been chosen, historically, for different urban grids. If we look around the world, they come in enormous varieties.GAZETTE: The idea that smaller blocks increase, or enhance, walkability, accessibility — to me, this seems intuitive. What features of smaller blocks have fueled this assumption?SEVTSUK: There’s a couple of things at play. First, if you look at individual walks through a city from one person’s point of view, then smaller blocks always help shorten the walk. If you go from point A to point B through an urban grid, and the blocks are short, you can zigzag right through.But what’s good for individuals is not necessarily good for the community. Part of what we look at in our recent paper is collective access for everyone, not just individual walks. That’s where the conventional wisdom goes astray. The smaller your blocks, the more total perimeter you usually have. This perimeter could be activated through retail and commercial facades, and the more of that you have, the more animated or interesting an area tends to be. But if you take that to an extreme and have many tiny blocks, you start spending more time crossing streets instead of actually walking in front of stores. That’s where smaller is no longer better. Another aspect, which has captivated urbanists historically, is that city centers always have smaller blocks than outside areas. Block sizes tend to get bigger and bigger as we move from the city center out. That’s largely because the city center usually has the highest densities and highest land values, so circulation has to be really effective to handle that density. GAZETTE: You just noted a fairly important distinction: individual benefit versus collective benefit.SEVTSUK: Right, and I think that’s exactly where a lot of urban designers get it wrong. Jane Jacobs is right in saying that I could have a shorter walk in Manhattan if its blocks were half as long. If I were going from one particular metro stop to a particular restaurant, with blocks half as long as they are now, chances are my one walk to that restaurant would be shorter. But if our goal is to maximize access to all destinations in the area, then smaller blocks would produce more frequent street crossings, and we start sacrificing some of the useful destination frontage to not-so-useful street crossings. That’s what starts bringing down the collective usefulness of small blocks.What’s really interesting about block sizes is that they have a nonlinear effect on pedestrian accessibility. It’s not that larger blocks are better, or smaller blocks are better. The ideal blocks size for maximizing pedestrian accessibility varies according to the parcel and street dimensions that are used. With the large parcels used in the Adelaide grid in Australia, for example, the grid would be more walkable if it its blocks were half as long as they are today. Portland, Ore., on the other hand, was laid out with relatively small parcels. We discovered that Portland’s grid would have been more pedestrian-accessible had its planners made blocks more than twice as long as they are today. But after a certain size threshold, if your block gets longer, then we start, collectively, not getting access to as many destinations within a 10-minute walk as we could, at the peak. When a block gets shorter below the same peak, then we start crossing too many streets. There is a kind of critical block-size threshold below which we start spending too much time crossing streets.The four samples within the graphic depict urban grids with optimal block lengths that would maximize pedestrian accessibility. Graphic courtesy of Andres Sevtsuk/GSDGAZETTE: What cities in the United States and around the world do you and other planners consider particularly walkable?SEVTSUK: It’s interesting that the feeling of what is walkable, or what people think is walkable, depends not only on the ground layout of those cities but also on the uses and buildings that have come to occupy the ground layout. We have to keep both things in mind when we talk about experiences of grids. In the best of cases, the ground layout has created preconditions for a good activity mix and good building forms to occupy it. Manhattan is probably one of the most walkable environments in the whole world because the sheer amount of destinations that are accessible to anyone in a five-minute walk is just phenomenally high. Even if you ignore the vertical dimension of Manhattan, the horizontal density of the grid from the get-go was planned such that you just get access to so many more parcels within the same 10-minute walk than you do anywhere else in the world.Other city grids around the country are relatively small and offer decent, walkable block sizes. Portland, Ore., is very walkable; parts of Washington, D.C., are very walkable. Minneapolis, Minn.; Savannah, Ga. But in some cases, the walkability contribution does not necessarily come only from the ground layout, or the grid. It can come from conscious planning of pedestrian-oriented destinations or public transit that serves the urban core. We see very crowded and heavily walked streets in places that are not necessarily, from the perspective of the grid, set out in ideal dimensions. But I think the confluence of walkability benefits arrives when both the ground layout and the built form harmoniously produce an environment that’s both horizontally and vertically accessible, in terms of its programming. Manhattan happens to have all of these factors.GAZETTE: The Manhattan block length, which was laid out in 1811, has turned out to be almost optimal for pedestrian accessibility today. Given the drastic social, cultural, economic, and other changes that have taken place since the early 1800s, what aspects of walkability have been stable and constant enough to permit a plan that was made in 1811 to remain equally favorable today?SEVTSUK: Whenever grids have been historically established to start a new settlement or to plan an expansion to a settlement, there is this critical question at the outset: What timeframe shall we dimension this grid for? Shall we dimension it for our needs right now? That usually means that we need to build larger blocks, because at the very first phase of development, you don’t have high densities, and thus the number of people who can pay for the infrastructure, the tax base, is lower. But what Manhattan did is plan a very generous grid that could handle extreme densities 100 years later. It laid out an extremely fine-grained grid meant for much higher densities than the first phases of development that occupied that grid. Manhattan took a gamble to the future and envisioned a grid that was optimistic in terms of city growth from the get-go. It handled that gamble fairly well, because the grid grew gradually from the densest parts out. It didn’t get occupied all the way into Harlem immediately. It gradually expanded, and the density was following the grid.If you see some of the historic photos of the New York commissioners’ grid, it initially had one-story cottages on these parcels. Now we have 100-story buildings on similar parcels. Fairly soon after the grid was laid out, multistory buildings started appearing, making the infrastructure investment worth the while. But in other cases, in Australia for example, you have urban grids that, for very new settlements and low densities of inhabitation, consist of very large blocks. Economically, that makes sense at the outset. What happens over time with those blocks is that they start getting subdivided as the city densifies. New cross streets need to be cut in to make the grid more accessible, generating smaller blocks over time. Manhattan never had to really do that.GAZETTE: Globally, are there cultural patterns here, with certain cultures historically favoring certain block dimensions?SEVTSUK: Indeed, I think there are cultural, and I might even add technological determinants that have historically guided the choice of block sizes. If you go all the way back to monastic societies, you will find that there have been blocks that were more determined by religious and celestial influences. In more recent history, a lot of block sizes have been determined by the car. If we look at L.A., we see a gridiron environment with not just one large grid, but lots of different, smaller grids. This is dimensioned for the efficiency of the car, so that you don’t have to stop at red lights every half a minute, and you have a certain efficiency that you can drive to the next big arterial road. What we argue in the paper is that the times are turning again. City planners are interested in walkability rather than drivability. If we are wanting to make urban blocks more walkable, then we would not do the kinds of superblocks that L.A. was based on anymore.There has been a lot of energy and enthusiasm for more walkable environments in the last decade in American planning. Europe has never really lost interest in the pedestrian environment. Traditional European city centers have always been relatively walkable. It has to do partially with the fact that there has been a demographic shift in America in the last decade, with the rise of the millennial generation and statistically more people being interested in moving back to city centers. Along with that interest to move to the city center comes a collective interest toward more walkable environments.The average American does not walk that much — but if you look at people inside shopping malls, they park their car, then they spend two hours walking in a shopping mall without noticing that they’re actually walking. This is a very stimulating walk because you’re constantly passing stores and other attractions. People do walk if the environment is conducive to it. As planners, we try to get that same level of stimulation to happen on the streets. We want people to come outdoors and engage with public spaces. You could have a destination a mile away and the walk could be very comfortable, very nice granite paving with nice landscaping along the way. But if there is nothing else along the way to stimulate us, our probability of taking that walk starts dropping. The interest aspect, or the stimulation aspect, of the walks is very important.GAZETTE: With bicycling becoming increasingly popular in cities, does the planning field have an entirely new set of considerations to consider in terms of access?SEVTSUK: Today, the most valued cities and the best-serving cities will maximize accessibility on a multitude of transportation options. We can’t make everybody walk [laughs].One extreme is Venice: no cars, entirely walkable. You can’t really bike in most of Venice. Even though many of us enjoy going to Venice on a vacation and staying there and walking around, it’s really contriving in terms of other modes of access. Having a city that provides high-quality public transit, that provides a certain level of vehicular access, that has high-quality and safe bike routes, as well as a favorable pedestrian environment, is, I think, what we all would like to see. But what historically has been a huge problem is that some of these infrastructure systems, like vehicular systems, have dominated overwhelmingly, at the cost of the other systems. We have arterial roads and highways in many American cities, and because of them it’s really hard to walk through those cities. The challenge for the 21st-century cities will be to come up with novel and innovative ways in terms of superimposing and managing these different systems at the same time. So that even in a neighborhood that has good vehicular access, pedestrian systems are able to penetrate through that vehicular system and different destinations are connected most readily.GAZETTE: How would you go about testing these theories on the ground, with actual people?SEVTSUK: Most cities collect traffic data, but we don’t do that for pedestrians. What’s pretty exciting today in the type of research that I do is that technology is making the leap. Image-recognition software that can read activity from a simple camera feed and categorize objects that pass by as pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and so forth is becoming readily available. Also, several of the gadgets that we now carry around, like smartphones and watches, have built-in accelerometers that can detect how much we move or walk. This produces very large data sets that could help researchers understand how people’s walking behavior varies across large territories.This interview was edited for clarity and length.SaveSaveSaveSavelast_img read more

Learn More →

Miami Dade Public Schools’ 2018-2019 ‘Back-To-School Tool Kit’ now online

first_imgMiami-Dade County Public Schools will open its doors to over 350,000 students on Monday, August 20, 2018, to begin the 2018-2019 school year. This year’s enhanced “Back-to-School Tool Kit” has been developed to help parents and students have a smooth transition back to school. The tool kit, which now includes videos, has been updated with information about registration and vaccination requirements, school hours, transportation, important dates, and school safety. Families can also find information about various academic programs, diploma options, before and after-school care, testing, free and reduced-priced meals, as well as policies regarding their child’s education.The tool kit is available online at http://toolkit.dadeschools.net/ in English, Spanish, and Haitian-Creole. For the most up-to-date information, please download the Dadeschools mobile app to your iPhone or Android device.  Follow us on Twitter @mdcps and @miamisup and on Facebook atMiamiSchools and AlbertoCarvalho.last_img read more

Learn More →

Caf likely to change Libya as host of U-20 tournament

first_imgLibya’s position as host of the African U-20 tournament is under threat following days of bloody anti-government protests which have claimed more than 100 lives.The Confederation of African Football is expected to take a final decision on the hosting of the African U-20 Championship in Libya.Escalating violence and loss of lives in the North African State means the tournament is likely to be staged by a new host country and a new date.South Africa or Ghana are said to be likely hosts of the tournament.The decision could be taken at the 33rd General Assembly of Caf on Wednesday 23rd February 2011.Source: Yaw Ampofo Ankrah/Sudanlast_img read more

Learn More →

Expert says Another Symptom of Coronavirus is Lack of Smell

first_imgFIU Infectious diseases expert Dr. Aileen Marty told the South Florida morning show this morning that there are other, more unusual symptoms of the coronavirus that indicated a need to be tested. In addition to fever, dry cough and upper respiratory distress, some people suffer a loss of the sense of smell and possibly taste.Listen to Jen and Bill’s full interview with infectious diseases expert Dr. Aileen Marty here.Dr Aileen MartyDr. Marty also confirmed the efficacy of the anti-malarial drugs that are being used in a compassionate care basis to help treat and prevent the coronavirus.last_img read more

Learn More →

Stop with the “Karen” Bashing

first_imgThe name Karen was one of the top 10 names for girls born in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, peaking as the third most popular girl’s name in 1965.As of today, there are 1,106,995 people in the U.S. with the first name Karen. Statistically, Karen is the 36th most popular first name.Unfortunately for those million plus women named Karen, including this reporter and the Second Lady of the United States, the name Karen has become a pejorative term used in the US for a woman perceived to be “entitled or demanding” beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a “racist white woman” who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others. Depictions also include demanding to “speak to the manager”, being an anti-vaxxer, or having a particular bob cut hairstyle. As of 2020, the term was increasingly being used as a general-purpose term of disapproval for middle-aged white women. The name Karen had negative connotations predating the Internet meme, the notable uses being Lorraine Bracco’s depiction of Karen Friedman Hill in the 1990 film Goodfellas, and Amanda Seyfried’s ditzy schoolgirl character in the 2004 film Mean Girls. As of today, another so-called “Karen” is making the rounds on the internet, this time in Hollywood. In the video, she calls a black woman a “homeless freak,” accuses her of having a gun and makes a fake 911 call. When an Asian man tries to intervene, she coughs on him and says “I got COVID.” The man says his coronavirus test came back negative after the ordeal and the woman targeted says telling the cops she had a weapon could have gotten her killed. There are 1,106,995 people in the U.S. with the first name Karen.Statistically the 36th most popular first name.last_img read more

Learn More →

New study: Golf lessons a boon for patients with chronic conditions

first_img The mental and physical benefits of playing golf have been revealed in a new report published today (3 July) by England Golf, ukactive and Mytime Active.Evidence taken from a two-year study suggests the benefits of an innovative ‘Golf on Referral’ programme include improvements in patients’ feelings of life satisfaction, physical activity levels and strength, while also reducing feelings of loneliness.The study focused on 45 people at risk of chronic conditions who had been referred to improve their overall health by increasing their physical activity and wellbeing.The Golf on Referral pilots were delivered at Mytime Active golf courses between 2017 and 2019, with the selected patients referred for a six-week behaviour change and golf lesson programme.Researchers tracked the patients’ mental and physical wellbeing, finding that activity levels rose dramatically. As the patients became more active, the researchers found that levels of life satisfaction rose, along with happiness and feelings of worthwhile.The improvements in wellbeing, coupled with a reduction in feelings of loneliness, highlighted the benefits of the programme – view the infographic here.The report recommends that Golf on Referral continues to be studied.Golf on Referral was developed to provide an additional referral route alongside Mytime Active’s traditional referral pathways which look to enable people to lead happier lives by prescribing physical activity.Researchers also found that grip strength – a strong indicator of vitality in older people – increased significantly over the course of the study, suggesting improvements in muscle strength and therefore reduced risk of falls or disability for patients.The Golf on Referral programme was supported by ukactive Research Institute findings published in the International Journal of Golf Science[i], which examined a separate survey of 3,247 golfers who participated at 12 Mytime Active golf courses.The findings showed positive associations between playing golf and the participants’ physical and mental wellbeing, as well as increased social trust and personal wellbeing.Rob Drinkwater, Head of Participation and Club Support at England Golf, said: “England Golf would like to thank Mytime Active and ukactive for their support in piloting the ‘Golf on Referral’ concept.“The health benefits of golf have long been known anecdotally by those taking part in the game, but as an industry we probably haven’t used that angle strongly enough to attract and ‘sell’ those benefits to new audiences and participants.“We’re really excited about taking the learnings from these pilots and further developing the Golf on Referral model; working with Mytime Active as well as other leisure, health and wellbeing providers to add the product into their hubs and menus of activity options.”Professor Greg Whyte, Chair of the ukactive Scientific Advisory Board, said: “Golf is a fantastic way to encourage people to be more active, particularly among people who may be classed as physically inactive.“This research demonstrates that undertaking regular, moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking during a game of golf, can improve your overall health and happiness.“We want to work with Mytime Active and England Golf to roll-out Golf on Referral, and build upon this evidence to provide golf-based interventions that create opportunities for more people to lead happier, healthier lives.”Jason Stanton, Operations Director at Mytime Active, said: “The Golf on Referral programme was born out of our desire to help more people access the benefits of golf, giving our communities a fun alternative to increase their physical activity levels, learn something new and socialise with like-minded people.“With the rising rates of loneliness we are experiencing in the UK, these positive outcomes seem more important than ever. With the support of ukactive and England Golf, we have been better able evidence the benefits of golf and the viability of the programme.“We are proud of the product we have created and the life-changing results it’s delivered to our customers to date. We hope that other leisure, health and wellbeing providers will look to offer the programme in the future.” [i] Sorbie, G., Richardson, A. K., Glen, J., Hardie, S., Taliep, S., Wade, M., Broughton, L., Mann, S., Steele, J., & Lavallee, D. (2020). The association of golf participation with health and wellbeing: A comparative study. International Journal of Golf Science. 3 Jul 2020 New study: Golf lessons a boon for patients with chronic conditions last_img read more

Learn More →

Digging Your Own Grave: Gareth Bale irks Madrid fans with “Wales, Golf , Madrid-…

first_imgImage Courtesy: Irish TimesAdvertisement pzlniNBA Finals | Brooklyn Vs3bsbWingsuit rodeo📽Sindre E6f( IG: @_aubreyfisher @imraino ) cf5unWould you ever consider trying this?😱1mgCan your students do this? 🌚a2Roller skating! Powered by Firework Wales secured their Euro 2020 with a 2-0 victory over Hungary but it was Gareth Bale who grabbed the headlines after celebrating the qualification with a flag that read “Wales, Golf, Madrid- in that order”. The antics have reportedly not gone down well with the Madrid faithful and the Welshman could be in for a rough ride in the Spanish capital. Advertisement Image Courtesy: Irish TimesIt is no secret that Gareth Bale is unsettled and is looking for an off-route from his stint with the 13-time Champions League winners. The winger’s lack of Spanish and obsession with golf has attained a lot of attention.Bale was offered an exit route to China but the deal was called off in the last moment leaving the 30-year-old stranded once again. The Welshman triggered the Madristas with his recent proclamation where he said that “It’s normal- with Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. I definitely have a bit more excitement playing with Wales.”Advertisement The flag celebration seems to be the last straw for the fans as they did not hold back. A video from Madrid Sports showed the anger with the fans saying: “We have always defended you, Gareth Bale. We have had patience with your injuries, we have celebrated your goals and assists, and we have defended your passion for golf and your limited Spanish.Advertisement “But enough is enough. As it says on the flag, you are laughing at Madrid.”Surprisingly, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has shrugged off the incident as he only cares about Bale’s performance on the field.Read AlsoIgor Stimac after India’s 1-0 loss to Oman: Not being able to score goals main problem!Tottenham Hotspur announce Jose Mourinho as their new manager  Advertisementlast_img read more

Learn More →