The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Parking and Cities

I had a thought the other day, driving down the main street of one of our former steel towns around here (8th Ave, Homestead). I was pondering the distinction between "traditional," pedestrian-friendly cities and "modern," auto-centric ones. The thing is, most American cities, except the very oldest, are actually pretty car-friendly - room for parallel parking, possibility of decent speed even around town, etc. It struck me as remarkable that places built up almost entirely before the automotive age should work at all, much less well, with heavy traffic.

Anyway, this somehow led to the thought that the real difference between pedestrian and automotive cities was how one feels about parking in them. When you drive to a great walking city, such as NYC or Haarlem, the goal is not to drive to your destination; it's to get to a place where you can park and leave your car. In most American cities, you're looking to park at your destination. Do you see the distinction? In New York, anywhere within a dozen blocks is fine, because you're just going to walk from place to place anyway. But in most parts of most US cities, it's a parking lot mentality - how close can I get to the front door?

I don't think we can glean any specific design lessons from this, but I do think it serves as a good metric of whether the place you're going is better for cars or people - would you rather go down the street on your feet or in your vehicle?



Blogger Mari said...

Even when people live in semi-pedestrian cities the goal still seems to be parking, istead of walking.

12:09 PM


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