Revitalization

Jeff Speck's Walkable City TED Talk

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 18, 2013

If you haven't already read Jeff Speck's recent book Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, you really should do so. In the meantime, Speck has given a lively, insightful TED talk summarizing three arguments for building more walkable cities.

In this talk, he makes three discrete arguments for designing and building more walkable communities: walkable communities leave people with more disposable income to spend, strengthening the local economy; walkable communities reduce obesity and disease in their residents; and walkable communities help protect the environment.

Speck is a designer by training and an urban planner by trade and was the co-author, with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, of the landmark book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.

That book was a scathing critique of postwar suburban sprawl and helped launched the "new urbanist" movement encouraging a return to more traditional neighbourhood design. Walkable City, in contrast, is more a feisty yet pragmatic guide for cities looking to undo the damage caused by 70 years of trying to twist themselves inside-out to accommodate fast, easy driving.

Speck draws on his various experiences working with cities and marshals a compelling set of evidence and arguments from urban planning, economics, public health and demographics to explain why - and how - cities should focus first and foremost on being walkable, not driveable.

Sidenote: I'm a shameless book defacer. I dog-ear page corners, highlight passages and scrawl notes in margins with reckless abandon (though I have gotten better at not doing this with loaned books). My copy of Walkable City is one of the most defaced books I've read in recent years, for the simple reason that I found so many passages I wanted to remember and to which I want to be able to refer back.

(h/t to the various RTH readers who sent me links to this talk.)

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 18, 2013 at 11:22:33

This guy is out to lunch. Haven't you heard: the Main St Expressway is our #1 competitive advantage over Toronto. Why do you think that city is dying while Main becomes the new Yonge?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted October 18, 2013 at 12:31:52

Amazing talk, thank you for posting it!

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