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Walkable City Paperback – 2 Dec 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; Reprint edition (2 Dec. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477728
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.2 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 245,239 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A delightful, insightful, irreverent work. --The Christian Science Monitor. If Jane Jacobs invented a new urbanism, Walkable City is its perfect complement, a commonsense twenty-first-century user's manual. --Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 and author of True Believers. A recipe for vibrant street life. --Los Angeles Times. Refreshing, lively and engaging . . . Walkable City isn't a harangue, it's a fun, readable and persuasive call to arms. --Steven Litt, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) Everyone interested in improving the quality of city life should read this book and heed its lessons. --John Strawn, The Sunday Oregonian. Among the perennial flood of books on urban design in all its forms, this one stands out. --John King, San Francisco Chronicle. Walkable City is an energetic, feisty book, one that never contents itself with polite generalities. Sometimes breezy and anecdotal yet always logical and amply researched, this is one of the best books to appear this year. Speck deserves the widest possible readership. --Philip Langdon, Better! Cities & Towns. Walkable City . . . will change the way you see cities." --Kaid Benfield, The Atlantic Cities Jeff Speck, AICP, is one of the few practitioners and writers in the field who can make a 312-page book on a basic planning concept seem too short . . . For getting planning ideas into the thinking and the daily life of U.S. cities, this is the book.--Planning magazine Jeff Speck's brilliant and entertaining book reminds us that, in America, the exception could easily become the rule. Mayors, planners, and citizens need look no further for a powerful and achievable vision of how to make our ordinary cities great again. Joseph P. Riley, mayor of Charleston, S.C. --Various

About the Author

Jeff Speck, coauthor of the landmark bestseller Suburban Nation, is a city planner who advocates for smart growth and sustainable design. As the former director of design at the National Endowment for the. Arts, he oversaw the Mayors' Institute on City Design, where he worked with dozens of American mayors on their most pressing city planning challenges. He leads a design practice based in Washington, D.C.


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By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Oct. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
We're told by the author, who is heavily anti-car, that American cities are designed around cars and have requirements for large amounts of parking per built unit. He recommends making cities more pedestrian friendly, having a mix of uses in a neighbourhood and increasing housing density, especially as older empty nesters move back in from suburbs. Lots of good ideas here. He adds that young people are not getting driving licences, preferring to live and work in walking areas. Great, for those who have the choice.

I can understand why housing and parking are both expensive in geographically cramped locations. According to Walkable City, on page 117, "Parking spaces under Seattle's Pacific Place shopping center, built by the city, cost sixty thousand dollars each. .... The twelve hundred space Pacific Place garage cost $73 million." Such details abound, more than most of us would ever need. Some very interesting facts about cars in the US though, such as the car companies buying up trolley car firms in the past and scrapping them so there would be no public alternative to cars.

This book is heavily anti-cars in cities, but in rural areas (even in Ireland), cars are a necessity if you are ever to get anywhere or carry anything, especially after dark when cycling is suicidal. The author overlooks or doesn't know an awful lot of detail that seems obvious and important to me. In discussing promoting cycling, the author never mentions the biggest drawback about bikes, which is theft. He tells us that the Netherlands has a wonderfully high rate of cycling. Yes, but he never mentions that this land is all flat. I did not see one single mention of parking, walking or public transport provision for disabled persons.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this after reading Suburban Nation (a great book). The book is essential reading for anyone practicing within, studying or simply interested in the quality of the built environment. If you want an attractive, vibrant and competitive town or city make it walkable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 153 reviews
82 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Think you know everything about walkable cities? Not until you read this. 16 Nov. 2012
By Darrin Nordahl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm no stranger to Jeff Speck's work (Suburban Nation, Smart Growth Manual). He and I sing the same hymns, and preach from the same editions of The Book of Great City Living and Pedestrian Life. I bought Speck's latest book because, as an urban designer and writer myself, I felt I should have this in my library. I figured I might find a couple of useful tidbits to make cities happier places to live, but no huge revelations. Nothing that I didn't know already.

Wrong. This book is packed with astute insights into what makes for livable, lovable communities. Speck's genius, I think, is finding connections between seemingly disparate urban phenomena. And offering solutions that are pragmatic, implementable, and so, so...SIMPLE that it is hard to believe we have gotten it so wrong for so long.

I wish this book came out when I was wrapping up my latest book Making Transit Fun!: How to Entice Motorists from Their Cars (and onto their feet, a bike, or bus). My book is pretty good ;-) But it would have been better had I had Speck's book before mine went to press.

Best of all, Speck's literary style is engaging. This book is an easy read, an inspiring read, and a compelling read. I thought I was just going to flip through a few pages, maybe read a chapter or two, and then place it on my shelf alongside the dozens of other planning books. Wrong again. I was surprised how quickly I became absorbed in this book. Most planning books are drier than butter-less popcorn. Speck's book glides down the gullet with flavor.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Breezy and engaging--like a great walk! 14 Jan. 2013
By MEM - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
At a recent book talk, I heard Jeff Speck discuss this book and his life's work, and was entirely compelled to read the rest myself. It turns out he really does have the life experience, numerous skills, wide exposure to various urban situations, and the concrete ideas to deliver the outcomes we want to create a walkable life.

I was particularly engaged by the three "E" features that were coming together: epidemiology, environment, and economics--that were clearly all in favor of urban density, mixed use, and transit oriented development (where it is appropriate). The book backs up these things with evidence on each count.

And then about a month later at a city meeting, here he was again. He's been working with my city planners in Somerville MA to turn our city into the top tier of walkable cities in the US. We are at the right place and right time: we are about to get several MBTA train stations, and currently have the chance to plan and strategize around them.

He acknowledges that we were born on 3rd base (and I don't dispute this). But he has evidence and methods that can help us be an incredibly walkable city. I think he has the goods. I hope we can act on it.

Certainly I have to admit that this book is delightful in part because it matches all of my cognitive bias (heh). I love cities (especially older ones), and I would love to live almost entirely without a car. Many of the examples he uses as both good and bad scenarios are places I've lived--so I know his facts are solid on those. But the text contains enough data and references that you can check the information with other sources, look at images on the web, and see that the story holds.

I wish it had contained more photographic evidence of some of the features he describes. Some of them he showed at our city meeting and they were very effective. But it is possible to seek them out in other ways with the internet, of course.

Certain hot-buttons (like traffic engineers and "starchitects") clearly earn some of Speck's ire. But obviously these stereotypes were for effect, and there are good actors on these things as well. And it will help me to recognize some of these things in the future at city planning meetings and have the ammunition to counter points or suggest alternatives that make more sense.

The breezy and engaging style (including citing The Onion and Monty Python, for example) allow you to quickly get the points, which are well made.

I will be recommending this book to my neighbors as we proceed through the next few years of getting our city enhancements. It will give them a sound basis to understand some decisions that might be hard to grasp at first. And I'm really looking forward to the future with more walkability, for everyone's benefit.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome - both educational and entertaining 14 Nov. 2012
By SFDave - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a great read... the author is funny and smart, and really knows the details of whats happening (and what should happen) in American cities. He really boils down the policy jargon and hot air into practical ideas, and also illuminates some of the history of how cities got the way they are (the 70s). I disagree with his seeming total anti-car bias (esp innovation in cars), but that comes with the territory; in any case, this book is one of the best I've read in the past few years (on a par with 'Fooled by Randomness' for example) ; and thats saying a lot for a public policy book... My advice - buy it!
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For City Dwellers All Over 7 Feb. 2013
By Gladiolagazer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't talk enough about how much this book has changed my view on the city. I was listening to NPR one morning and Jeff Speck was on, discussing his work and this book. I bought it immediately and I did not regret it once I started.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Walkable city 30 Oct. 2015
By Clare O'Beara - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
We're told by the author, who is heavily anti-car, that American cities are designed around cars and have requirements for large amounts of parking per built unit. He recommends making cities more pedestrian friendly, having a mix of uses in a neighbourhood and increasing housing density, especially as older empty nesters move back in from suburbs. Lots of good ideas here. He adds that young people are not getting driving licences, preferring to live and work in walking areas. Great, for those who have the choice.

I can understand why housing and parking are both expensive in geographically cramped locations. According to Walkable City, on page 117, "Parking spaces under Seattle's Pacific Place shopping center, built by the city, cost sixty thousand dollars each. .... The twelve hundred space Pacific Place garage cost $73 million." Such details abound, more than most of us would ever need. Some very interesting facts about cars in the US though, such as the car companies buying up trolley car firms in the past and scrapping them so there would be no public alternative to cars.

This book is heavily anti-cars in cities, but in rural areas (even in Ireland), cars are a necessity if you are ever to get anywhere or carry anything, especially after dark when cycling is suicidal. The author overlooks or doesn't know an awful lot of detail that seems obvious and important to me. In discussing promoting cycling, the author never mentions the biggest drawback about bikes, which is theft. He tells us that the Netherlands has a wonderfully high rate of cycling. Yes, but he never mentions that this land is all flat. I did not see one single mention of parking, walking or public transport provision for disabled persons. For instance, traffic lights are having to have a longer pedestrian crossing time here to cope with an ageing population using walking aids. The author even insisted on a street junction outside his home being kerbless, brick-tiled from one row of houses right across the street to the others. How does this help a blind person, a mother with toddlers and pram, a dog-walker, a person in a wheelchair? We're also told that Zipcars are helpful. I don't know what that is and we are not told. I can make an educated guess, but it seems like a glaring omission.

Also, the book recommends building housing without parking spaces and charging to park on the street outside these houses. This ensures that people like me, who drive a van to and from work (at your house) and need to remove all the tools every evening, and may tow a trailer, will never come to live in that neighbourhood. So your plumber, carpenter, gardener, sparks, painter, tree surgeon, kitchen fitter, dog groomer etc will not live where you live, which pushes up the price of services. And if your housing in the city centre is entirely pedestrianized with no parking spaces, how do they get to you in the first place? In one area where I work, the parking charges are so steep that I only go there on a Sunday and park around the corner in a space which is free on Sundays. This charge would otherwise force up the price I had to charge my client.

I'm pleased that the author is heavily in favour of trees. The urban heat island effect is by now well known, and trees create shade as well as absorbing rainfall. Since childhood in Dublin I've seen that wealthier areas tend to have mature trees in gardens and on roadsides, while poorer areas do not; why did it take this bright man until middle age to see this at the prompt of a friend? He never mentions that trees increase biodiversity and help migrating birds to cross a city or give resident birds nest sites and food. Also, it never seems to occur to him that trees create problems - aside from windows being too dark, the infrastructure can suffer as tree roots buckle paving, tilt walls, break pipes, and tree limbs tangle in wires or obscure street signs, lighting and traffic lights. They can also make it impossible to see for a driver coming out of a gate. So just dropping trees, or particular species, everywhere is not recommended.

The author also says that people using street cafes prefer to sit looking at parked cars than at traffic that might hit them. Actually, they don't; they just need to know they won't be hit. So in Dublin, there are cast iron decorative bollards to protect shop windows and seated café patrons. But pedestrianising can go too far. I used to go to Dun Laoghaire regularly, some years ago; then the planners introduced parking charges and spread them over an increasingly wider area. When the walk got to ten minutes each way I stopped visiting Dun Laoghaire. Now I never shop there and nobody else I know does either. Similarly, one major store after another has closed in Dublin city centre, because people can't get near them and don't like long walks carrying lots of goods. A shopping centre policy often seen here is that staff are to park at the end of the car park, as the cars are left all day, and that frees up spaces next to the shops for oft-changing cars and for mothers with toddlers and trollies. This kind of common sense could be mentioned in this book, but isn't because the author doesn't make provision for the fact that families actually need cars.

The data compiled is interesting if you are looking at this topic, and it's certainly educational about American city sprawl and the expense of providing for cars, a cost paid by everyone.
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