Green Building: Going…Going…Green!
As a result; a person living on a typical subdivision public street today knows that she has no control over the street she lives on; she knows that the person driving on the street has more rights with respect to the street than she does; she knows that the street belongs to a "public" who doesn't live there; she knows that the street is not designed for her family; and that the street is safe for high speed cars and trucks; but that it is not safe for people - specifically her own children who live on the street.
In HomeTown we took the design of the realm in front of the home out of the hands of the engineers and put it back into the hands of planners; and as much as possible we designed the streets and lanes for the people who live there, not for other people's cars and trucks.
By design, automobiles which use the streets and lanes must respect and give deference to the people who live there. The lifestyle of people who live and use the streets was given preference to the movement of cars. The glitch is that some of the older historic, timeless, human-scale patterns of street design have been very negatively impacted by the raw power of the automobile - a 1˝ ton high-speed projectile. The perfect example is the old-fashioned grid street.
About thirty years ago, after several children had been killed on neighborhood streets, a group of residents in Delft, Netherlands took street safety matters into their own hands. The city had torn up a street for normal replacement. The residents in a matter of days replaced the street themselves in such a way that cars had to go slowly so kids were safe. Thirty years later "traffic calming" is standard practice throughout Europe in residential neighborhoods - it's the way most new neighborhoods are designed.
In the Netherlands these low speed, pedestrian oriented streets are called "Woonerfs". Roughly translated, Woonerf means "residential district". The entire distance from the front of one house to the front of the house on the opposite side of the street is considered to be a residential district in which pedestrians and automobiles have equal rights of passage and use. To balance the unnatural power of the automobile, the Neighborhood Streets and Living Lanes in HomeTown are designed so that they can only be driven on at safe, slow speeds. Various "Woonerf" type "traffic calming" devices are being installed to accomplish this objective - traffic circles, raised pedestrian crossing platforms, neck downs, tight curves, etc.
This picture was taken from the median of a high speed arterial looking at the main entrance and the main collector street into a community in Bonn Germany of about 5,000 people. The truck is parked, you can see that the safety platform and neckdown is one car width wide.
In HomeTown we have taken the best of these new traffic-calming methods and combined them with historic, timeless, human-scale neighborhood design principles.
In HomeTown we have restored much of the physical safety and human scale that residential streets had before the automobile destroyed the delicate balance between the public's needs and the resident's needs.
We have freed our residential streets from the tyranny of high speed automobiles and trucks so that the residents who live on them can enjoy them.
These are the town planners for HomeTown. Alexandria and Victoria are the oldest of my five grandchildren. I reviewed every element of design in HomeTown with these young ladies in mind. HomeTown was designed for children – for my grandchildren.
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More by Perry Bigelow
- The Spirituality of Sustainability
- Building and Development Philosophy: Cultural and Environmental Sustainability
- Energy and Environmental Building Association, 1999
- Think Differently - Think Creatively
- Bibliography - Neighborhood Planning, Community & Ecology