A friend of mine lives in the docklands (a new area in east London with a massive amount of new flats, having undergone substantial redevelopment in the last 10 years) and regularly complains about being a 20 minute walk from any shops or retail space.
Why would you want to live in a city that you can't walk around? If you're not going to live near people (and the associated economic/social activity), why not live in the countryside where you get the benefits of space, fresh air and open space as a trade off?
I'm in the process of looking at buying a home and increasingly it seems clear that either a dense arrangement or the countryside (if working remotely) are preferable to the burbs, where you get high costs and poor access.
HOAs are primarily to blame for the high cost and poor access of suburbia. Multiple gated communities all each attempting to create their own "privately-owned by the community" parks and recreation. Aside from HOA fees (which are basically taxes), the gluing together of all these private developments makes "freedom" and walkable / public access an illusion. Homeowners end up double paying and cities' infrastructure suffers from lack of funds.
Density is best if it is done right, but the HOA problem incentives fracture and disconnect. Thus: all public spaces in all densely-planned areas must be publicly-owned. The HOA cannot create walled gardens.
Zoning is what prevents dense development, mixed development and all the other kinds of development we used to do in the US (not just Europe).
Here's a small example from Bend, where I live:
If you're interested in the subject, some good takes on it are the books I list here (Zoned in the USA and Zoning Rules!):
Or, if you want to get a very real sense, the next time some apartments get proposed in your town, go to the public hearings and listen to the neighbors rant, rave, froth at the mouth and otherwise raise a hue and cry that life as they know it will not go on if the poor peop...errr, I mean apartments get built anywhere near them.
Of course, it's not just density - it's the variety of use. I used to live in South Park, San Diego and it was a wonderful neighborhood, even though it wasn't all that dense (mostly single family homes - and gorgeous ones at that). It did, however, have all sorts of retail, dining, parks, housing, and other things in the same neighborhood, so I could still get most of what I needed with a walk. Of course, houses there were not going to be affordable with the incomes we could get in San Diego, because this made it about the best neighborhood in the city.
Actually, that example is illustrative. It would be illegal to build South Park now. Partially because of zoning, but also because of parking requirements and traffic "engineering" (to use the term rather generously). All those little cottages would be surrounded by asphalt (mandatory parking minimums), not gardens, and the streets would be three times as large (gotta ram fire trucks through at 45mph after all!)
That being said, it wasn't perfect. I went to the community planning meetings (at 5:00 in the evening, so it was mostly retirees) and was usually the only person defending planned new bike lanes.
a. Without an HOA, every home is well-kept like a postcard. (possibly most desired, but unlikely to happen)
b. With an HOA, every home is well-kept like a postcard. (acceptable)
c. Without an HOA, some homes have a "redneck" or "ghetto" look. (undesirable)
d. With an HOA, every home has a "redneck" or "ghetto" look. (won't happen)
The only rational choice for the developer is "b". If they try for "a", they might only sell a few houses before somebody makes the place look threatening. That drives down the selling price for the nearby lots. The lower selling price may even increase the chance of having buyers who will also make a threatening-looking mess.
I wish it weren't so. I hate how all modern housing has HOAs. Without some very unlikely changes in the law, we're stuck with the situation.
How can these both be true?
It's basically siphoning money that would be going to public infrastructure to make private infrastructure. There's also statistical evidence that people running the boards of these HOAs don't actually select the most value-oriented bidders, they reward their family and friends.
Edit sorry, old bookmark nevermind the link.
I live in an urban, walkable area, to be clear, so I'm not entirely sure of the motives.
In the USA, quality of schools are another big plus for the suburbs over both rural and urban areas.
If I want to get to a purposeful destination, I get in the car and have a quick (usually well under 10 minutes) drive to go to places which do not intrude into my personal life, space, and attention until I choose to go there.
I do live in the big local non-walkable metropolis (5M+ population), in a cheap area, but I still have my elbow room, relaxed immediate environment, and quick & full access to everything. I certainly don't want to live where everything is right in my face and in my ears all the time.
Also related, the Brutalist design that favored gigantic concrete polygons over more multi-scale human-friendly designs
Have mixed feelings about the giant apartment buildings since they're pricey which means the restaurants are also pricey, well out of my meager price range. On a side note, I was talking to a kid who's girlfriend lives in one of the new apartment buildings and he was saying she has to rent it out on Airbnb half the month (and stay at her moms) to afford the rent.
I'm all for the density. I already have a nice place that's much cheaper than the apartments. I eat-in mostly to save money. Now, my nightly walks will be more interesting. My options have expanded when I do go out.
Your friend might have to consider roommates, a cheaper place, or staying with their parents. If they're renting their own apartment six months a year to afford it, then they can't.
Yeah, I was like "huh, what's even the point?"
I live 3 blocks away and pay less than half for a two-bedroom with the best landlord ever.
Le Corbusier was building single taller buildings, surrounded by empty lawns. Example: http://scd.france24.com/en/files/imagecache/france24_ct_api_...
(the article does not do this, by the way)
Take out your wallet.
Take out the driver's license, and put it on your dinner table.
Put your wallet back in your pocket.
Now, step outside your home and go buy a gallon of milk.
That's my criterion.
For me, personally, I would just milk one of the cows that live on my property. Now, that's real freedom.
A lot of people in this country literally cannot fetch milk without a license from the government. You are free. I am free. They are not.
They need less surveillance because there's more "eyes" on the ground, and yet the biggest walkable cities that come to mind, nyc and London are the most heavily surveiled on the planet.
big walkable urban areas also happen to be less safe from crime, rather than safer as the author asserts.
However, we've also legalized killing people with your car if it's an accident (or you can plausibly claim such). It's not technically a crime, but it's still a bummer.
The US has around 32000ish auto deaths a year.
It has around 15000ish murders per year
I suppose that a few of those are vehicular homicide, but most aren't.
I quite like not being killed while I walk or cycle, and it looks like it makes sense to focus on not getting killed by cars.
>Few years ago, when I was serving as an elected official in Moscow, I was the only outspoken YIMBY in my district. Once at the public hearings I was even accused of being bribed by the developer — just because I supported a private park project!
So this is just a play to privatize public land? I like walkable areas and I really like areas that anyone can walk in. Who cares how walkable a space is when your ability to actually walk there is subject to the whims of a private individual?
The Central Park Conservancy or Bryant Park Corporation in NYC are great examples - public land, managed and principally funded by private entities, going way beyond what a public parks department could ever hope to accomplish on their own.
POPS projects can work if the government enforces them properly. They aren't replacements for public parks, but are better than nothing on a block that might otherwise not have any public space at all - and even public parks can benefit from private investment and control if done properly. Both the city and developers though should avoid the trap of thinking a POPS is a substitute for a public park. They serve different purposes.
Edit: you know what, I'm not going to get into it here... it was years ago and people can look up what happened if they're interested.
Living in a bubble of happiness is not the reality for most people and it's getting easier and easier to either don't notice or purposely ignore it.
I understand you view, but a place only governed by law and not by private motives is something very valuable.
It's pretty nice and seems like it'd be a nice place to live but I haven't lived there nor have a talked with anyone who has.
The whole thing is definitely walkable, but ultimately it just feels like an outdoors shopping mall to me.
More people in the same or less space leads to less freedom. Walking doesn't have that much to do with it.
I still don't get what the grandparent is on about though. I live in Boston, and it's pretty great. I feel free to live my life the way I want here, as opposed to being forced into owning a car and drive it everywhere.
(Not talking about the train top speed, but the average speed, including stops and acceleration, along the whole line.)
 For the Green line: http://walkingbostonian.blogspot.com/2015/01/taking-look-at-...
The red line e.g. runs at 20 mph. The problem with the red line are the age of the rolling stock and signal equipment and their tendency to catch on fire.
The average annual cost of owning and operating a private vehicle is about $8,500.
The median personal income in the US is about $31,000.
Clearly, for a large part of the population, a good proportion of their working hours are spent paying for transportation. They are "paying huge sums of time".
If you are only bringing in the median income, not being obliged to run a car is a massive advantage. Yes, of course you will miss out on some things such as going camping on the weekend but if this were really important to you then hiring a car specifically for this purpose would be a good option.
If you have access to 10 identical Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants with a 10 minutes drive, you have less access than if you have access to 10 very different restaurants with a 10 min walk as it's typically the case in a dense city center.
I agree that the relevant metric is time. In a dense environment, you typically have access to more and more diverse things than in a less dense, car dependent suburban environment, in the same amount of time.
Population density is the dominant term in the freedom equation. I think wealth is more dominant than walk-ability Walk-ability is in there too but it on becomes something worth caring about when density and wealth are controlled for. Walk-ability can be the deciding factor when comparing freedom in place A to place B only if and B are of similar density and wealth.
If you have two cities that are very similiar except one is more walkable the walkable one will have more freedom because owing a car in either of those places is going to be so burdensome (cost of ownership, time spent going out of your way to comply with some car related law, e.g. moving it for street sweeping, finding parking, etc) as to be a net decrease in personal freedom compared to walking.
To get to a high enough density where walk-ability becomes a serious concern you've already given up a lot of freedom in other ways.
For example, in a city that's less dense than Boston, like Worcester (a couple hours outside Boston depending on traffic, I'm picking a city in the same state to control for outside variables) you don't need to be in the 90% income percentile to buy a house. Owning your own house/property increases your freedom because you don't have a landlord. You can remodel the place, paint it funny colors, smoke inside, have pets, etc. If you reduce density to the point where you have off street parking you get even more freedom. You can have a motorcycle and a commuter car. You can have a little trailer you use to buy stuff at home depot (or wherever). Someone who's handy can use that freedom to be much more efficient with their money. Instead of paying someone you can go buy and install a shower insert (or whatever) and remodel that bathroom yourself. Yes, I know you could rend a Uhaul or whatever but that adds friction and cost.
Even still, in the city you probably don't have the freedom to throw parties or restore an old sailboat under a carport because people will complain. That can be solved by moving a little further out to the suburbs but this is where wealth starts entering the equation. If you move to a "nicer" (wealthier) suburb you still won't be allowed to do those things. HOAs, community standards, bylaws, etc will prevent you from or add significant friction that makes it more expensive (time, money or $other, choose any metric, you can convert them all to each other on some level) what you want on your own personal property or within your own home. Solution: pick a "less nice" suburb where nobody will blink twice at parties or a partially restored boat under a car port or move even further out. Even in an area that's borderline rural/suburb there's things you can't do without a high likelihood of causing yourself trouble. If riding ATVs hunting, target shooting or anything else that makes a heck of a lot of noise is your thing you really aren't free to do those things unless you live way, way out in the boondocks.
Lower density and "less nice" neigborhoods have trade-offs. Less density, fewer jobs (potentially less economic freedom), fewer services (you need to spend your time/money making up for that, e.g. taking your trash to the dump), fewer choices on where to buy groceries, more time spent traveling, etc etc. In a less nice neighborhood you might be able to throw a party but you might have to put up with listening to the police break up someone else's party at 1am.
With regard to walkability specifically, as density goes down the cost of owning a car goes down (e.g typical cost of/time spent looking for of parking in Houlton, ME:$0, 0min, Miami, FL: >$0, >0min) so depending on one's personal values/priorities there's a point (for most people it's probably on street vs off street parking) where a car becomes a net increase in freedom as opposed to a net decrease in freedom. The bigger the cost of a car the more walk-ability and other transit matters.
If you want to be a city mouse and going to bars, museums, buying fancy ethnic food from a local grocer, etc is you thing that's fine but equating lots of local options for those activities (regardless of the mode of transportation you use to get to them) with freedom is a really, really narrow view of what personal freedom is. You're also ignoring (or not aware of) a lot of stuff that you are trading off when living somewhere densely populated (partly because those tradeoffs do not affect you ability to pursue your interests) that other people with other priorities would see as a reduction of personal freedom.
For people who want to spend their free time doing something that can't be done easily/cheaply/well in the city walk-ability is not something that has a large impact on their perceived level of personal freedom.
If your personal preferences line up in a way that causes walk-ability to make your life better then you will perceive it as increasing freedom. To get to that point at all you're living somewhere dense enough that you have made trade-offs in your living style that other people with other preferences would call a decrease in freedom.
Walk-ability is a positive to some and inconsequential to others.
This is kind of a rant but oh well, making it much more cohesive than it is is beyond the point of diminishing returns.