WE WOULD LOVE
Our content is
a public service!
Follow us on Twitter
by David Mozer
What makes a livable city? Or, a good neighborhood to grow up in? And are these element
being included in the built environment of the future?
Today, a resident of downtown Amsterdam is likely to use a bicycle on his/her morning
commute. A New Yorker, commuting from a borough to Manhattan is likely to use mass
transit. But an Angeleno is likely to drive a car. They may all be looking at exactly the
same "front door" from the inside, but once they step through the door their
lives go in different directions. Each decides his or her travel mode, each has a choice,
and contrary to what is sometimes espoused the outcome is not predetermined by culture. In
fact, if the Dutch move to New York they will likely switch to mass transit. If the New
Yorkers move to Los Angeles they will likely find themselves more reliant on an
automobile. And, even the Angeleno transplanted to Amsterdam will probably give serious
consideration to cycling.
For a child growing up, a quality environment is one where (s)he can safely and
progressively develop more responsibility and other life skills. This may mean at three
years old discovering his/her front yard: at four going down to the end of the block; at
five exploring the neighborhood; at six joining friends to walk or bike to school; at
seven taking responsibility to go independently to and from extracurricular activities
(music, sports, arts); and, at eight running errands to the neighborhood market to buy
needed item for the family; until as a teenager they have woven themselves into the fabric
of the neighborhood, have self-esteem, can manage time, know how to handle independence,
take responsibility for their behavior and take pride in their maturity.
For adults, if the decisions on transportation that is made at the front door is not
predetermined by culture or age, how is it made? By the view from the door! If you look
out and see calm streets, grocery stores, hairdressers, cleaners, restaurants, day care
centers, banks, parks and transit stops you are likely to have a different mix of
transportation decisions than if you look out and see several miles of single family
houses, heavy traffic, high speed arterials and no stores in sight. While pedestrian- and
bicycle- friendly facilities may be necessary for enticing people to choose non- motorized
modes they are not in themselves sufficient. Conversely, mixed land use might also
encourage bicycle and pedestrian access, but without a convenient and safe non-motorized
system it may do little to invite people out of their cars. A quality urban environment
includes safety, proximity and access, and not simply mobility.
The following ideas can be incorporated into comprehensive-, land use-,
transportation-, and/or non-motorized plans to enhance safety, proximity and access.
(Design standards for facilities are not addressed, although this is another important
topic in maximizing non-motorized travel.)
- Direct land use and transportation development, through the permit process, to issue
equal or better access by foot or bicycle to education, recreation, retail, commercial
office and other appropriate types of development.
- Design and locate retail, office and public service buildings to be convenient for
pedestrian, bicycle and transit users.
- Cluster commercial and residential development in higher density centers, rather than
extended in linear strips along roads.
- Require, through the permit process, mixed land uses of residential, retail, commercial
office and other types of compatible development, to provide an environment which is safe
and convenient for pedestrian and bicycle travel, and give people shorter travel distances
between origins and destinations.
- Restrict development of neighborhood commercial areas to a pedestrian scale and design.
- Coordinate land use decisions with existing and planned public transportation services
and the needs for non-motorized access.
- Reduce congestion and increase access with strategies to reduce
vehicle volume, not increase capacity.
- Establish a comprehensive pedestrian/bicycle program to coordinate engineering,
education, enforcement, encouragement, and environmental programs for improving
- Hire specialists in pedestrian/bicycle systems to positions responsible for implementing
the pedestrian/bicycle system.
- Design new roadway and roadway improvement projects to accommodate bicycles and
pedestrians as an integral part of the project, unless otherwise determined.
- Create traffic calm neighborhoods to provide a pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly travel
environment. Discourage through traffic in residential, school, park and commercial areas.
- Design and construct a safe, secure and convenient system for pedestrians and bicyclists
which provide direct non-motorized access, linkages and through-cuts between common
origins and destinations (residential areas, retail areas, schools, libraries, employment,
parks and recreation facilities, significant environmental areas, local historic and
cultural landmarks, transit and other public facilities).
- Require developers of subdivisions, short plats, and other types of development to
provide safe and convenient right-of-ways for intra- and inter- development of pedestrians
and bicyclists facilities.
- Encourage development that enhances the pedestrian experience: easy access to buildings
(built to the sidewalk); shelter from elements (shade trees, awnings); visual interest
(retail activity, views, architectural forms); security (lighting, visual
"oversight" from building occupants, use of "front yards"); easy
access to transit and neighboring services.
- Coordinate pedestrian and bicycle systems to be continuous. Sub- components should be of
a consistent surface and require a consistent level of skill to use.
- Review every planning and public works project for pedestrian and bicycle character to
determine whether or not there is a non-motorized element or impact.
- Provide non-motorized access into neighborhoods every 200-300 meters off of adjacent
- Establish "level-of-access" standards for service level
which assess access for all modes.
- Update design standards for all non-motorized
transportation facilities to conform to the latest state-of-the-art practices.
- Evaluate the impact on pedestrians and bicyclists when designing, engineering,
rehabilitating, signalizing, striping, upgrading, or modifying a roadway.
- Adopt street design standards (i.e. intersection design, signal phasing, roadway width)
that give priority to and enhance the safety of pedestrians and minimize conflicts with
motorists. Priority for installation or reconstruction should be given to those routes
that are used by school children, senior citizens, physically challenged persons and/or
- Construct pedestrian and bicycle facilities with appropriate amenities (i.e. restrooms,
drinking fountains, benches, bicycle parking) to encourage and support use.
- Design pedestrian and bicycle facilities for easy maintenance.
- Acquire and/or railbank abandoned railway right-of-ways that are desirable for
- Designate and implement "safe" routes to serve major origin/destination
- Reduce impediments to pedestrians and bicyclists (i.e. use of pedestrian activated
signals with delays, vast distances across roads and between stores.)
- Coordinate planning efforts for non-motorized modes of travel with other jurisdictions
and relevant transit agencies to develop an integrated area-wide plan for bicycles and
other non-motorized travel modes that ensures continuity of routes.
- Promote the use of the least polluting type of
- Minimize negative environmental impacts of the transportation system: Minimize energy
consumption; minimize air, light, water and noise pollution; and minimize destruction of
ecosystems and impacts on wildlife habitat.
- Place top priority on a multi-modal transportation system that efficiently provides
access for people and goods with optimum safety, while maximizing the conservation of
energy and minimally disrupting environmental quality.
- Develop, protect and enhance wildlife and plant habitat
corridors as part of transportation corridors.
- Construct continuous pedestrian facilities along all major streets and highways; these
should be direct and interconnect with all other modes of transportation.
- Provide safe, secure and convenient facilities for pedestrians into and within
commercial developments (CBD, Urban villages, shopping centers).
- Relate sidewalk design to the function and the anticipated amount of pedestrian traffic.
Locate sidewalks to take advantage of views and other amenities, when appropriate.
- Require pedestrian facilities as land is developed based on standards for the street
- Provide ramps and curb cuts throughout the pedestrian system for physically challenged
- Provide continuous bicycle-friendly facilities wherever
possible, especially in congested areas. Sidewalks are not desirable for most bicycle
traffic due to the presence of pedestrians and other obstacles.
- Design bikeways and multi-modal facilities to meet a
wide range of user needs. Design bikeway and walkway capacity to accommodate the
- Provide adequate signing of bikeways and paths. Directional for non- motorized users,
notification for motor-vehicles.
- Utilize park and playfield amenities in the bike system.
- Provide bicycle parking in commercial and recreational areas.
- Provide sufficient secure bicycle storage at transit centers, transit stops and
- Create safe and secure conditions throughout the alternative travel chain where young
and old, women and children, can travel without fear of harassment, intimidation or
- Scrutinize security in the location and design of facilities.
- Differentiate facilities by user speed where warranted.
- Protect public rights-of-way from encroachment by any structure, vegetation, landscaping
materials or other obstruction in order to provide for safe movement, and good sight lines
for safety and security for users.
- Provide buffers (trees, planting strips, parked cars) between vehicles and pedestrians
- Provide adequate lighting on facilities used by pedestrians and bicycles to encourage
use and provide safety and security.
- Reduce the dependency on the automobile by coordinating opportunities for other modes of
travel such as transit facilities, pedestrian ways and bicycle trails.
- Provide safe and convenient access and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians to access
transit and ferries.
- Emphasize pedestrian, transit and bicycle linkages between the CBD core and the major
areas of influence surrounding the core, to lessen dependence on the private automobile.
- Enhance High Capacity Transit use through the provision of adequate access for
pedestrians and bicycles at bus stops, transit centers, park-and-ride lots and transit
- Transit agencies should accommodate bicyclists, including racks on buses and ferries and
bike storage at transit centers.
- Provide a trail and bike system that insures reasonably safe and efficient travel
corridors for all segments of the community and links publicly owned parks, recreation
facilities and other major activity areas as appropriate.
- Protect sufficient right-of-way along trails to create and maintain a greenway.
- Construct buildings to meet disabilities access standards.
- Construct buildings with non-motorized travel amenities (secure parking,
change rooms, showers as needed).
- Educate about transport, financial, environmental, energy, health and social benefits of
- Utilize a least cost planning framework to give equal access to
funding of pedestrian and bicycle related programs.
- Develop an equitable system of transportation impact fees.
- Provide adequate, predictable and dedicated funding to construct non- motorized
transportation capital projects, insure maintenance and preservation of existing
facilities, and maintain a pedestrian and bicycle program office.
- Ensure that non-motorized facilities on large scale project are not abandoned at the
final construction stage because of cost overruns in other aspects of the project.
- Encourage employers to adopt flextime policies.
- Encourage employers to have guaranteed ride home programs.
- Provide incentives to employers to promote non-motorized commuting.
- Encourage employers to reward employees who walk or bicycle to work. Employers with a
high percentage of employees using alternatives to SOVs, or who locate and design their
building so that they are pedestrian-, bicycle- and transit-friendly should be rewarded
While these ideas only address only a small part of what makes a livable community, we
hope they help broaden your understanding of this segment of the topic. If you have any
comments on these ideas or questions about planning a livable community, please contact
the International Bicycle Fund.
IBF's Bicycle / Development / Sustainability
Bibliography / Reading List