Summer Reading Series: Cities Alive

"Cities Alive, Towards a walking world", Arup, released June 2016

Recent research for a client on mixed-use development brought me to this report recently released by Arup, an internationally recognized planning and engineering firm. I took a little bit of time this summer to embrace my inner urban planning geek and dig deeper into the report. It details 80 case studies from around the world, coupled with global statistics and in depth research to demonstrate the aggregate benefits of planning and implementing walkable urban designs.  While the report builds a case for the importance of walkability in 21st century cities, it takes on broader aspects of how we socialize, live, work, and play in our communities and what cities will look like in the future to accommodate our needs. 

The car used to be a significant milestone and status symbol for young adults progressing into full blown adulthood, but today cars have fallen by the wayside in terms of status, instead being replaced by experiences and digital toys. And new technologies are not only for playing Pokemon Go and dating apps, cloud computing and other technologies are being used to make streets more interactive, user friendly and illuminate walkways.

The report touches on social and planning theories that span centuries to ground their findings but it also uses visuals and real world examples to demonstrate spin off effects of walkable neighborhoods. From street art and cultural initiatives, to bringing a sense of safety to the street, increasing revenue for local businesses, or lowering traffic related deaths, the effects of a walkable city touch multiple aspects of a community, both in the immediate and long term.

Cities see economic benefits from walkable communities too, as downtown walkable neighborhoods are what much of the young, talented workforce is looking for, and a city that can provide a healthy environment with job opportunities for young professionals entering the workforce, and even for Baby Boomers looking to stay in the workforce, will be a competitive force in the global economy.

The end of the report highlights examples of local governments bringing walkable initiatives and designs to their communities. I personally love the example of the Highline in New York City - an old rail line transformed into an urban park that weaves its way through the skyscrapers. How do you feel about moving towards a #walkingworld? Join the conversation. 



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