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Thread: Coherent argument about cul-de-sacs

  1. #26
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    I think CDUB hits the nail on the head on two counts:

    1. Gridded 'sprawl' is less traffic-problematic than cul-de-sac sprawl and better accommodates (zoning permitting) mixed-use / adaptive use.

    2. The Cul-de-sac exacerbates the us/them divide, the contrast between domesticity and the city at large; it is a retreat from urbanity and as such a private, vote-with-your-feet response to the unsolved ills of all (but especially US) urban areas. The cul-de-sac is the first step toward the gated community.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    I think CDUB hits the nail on the head on two counts:

    1. Gridded 'sprawl' is less traffic-problematic than cul-de-sac sprawl and better accommodates (zoning permitting) mixed-use / adaptive use.

    2. The Cul-de-sac exacerbates the us/them divide, the contrast between domesticity and the city at large; it is a retreat from urbanity and as such a private, vote-with-your-feet response to the unsolved ills of all (but especially US) urban areas. The cul-de-sac is the first step toward the gated community.
    On point one, why does John Q. Public care? John may want to live somewhere where mixed-use is not allowed. (no commercial traffic, less noise).

    On point two, I think that you have mistaken design for social science. It's O.K; a lot of planners seem to do this. Design is not a cure, nor is it a scapegoat.....and all the junk science in the world is not going to convince me as a person, or as a professional planner.

    Planners want to talk about choice...transportation choice, housing choice, and recreational choice.... until the choice smacks up against a planning dogma, such as cul-de-sacs. Wham! No more choice, it had better accommodate the latest planning clichés (NU, Traditional, etc). It is so much buzzword bingo. Design should always be approached with an open mind and an objective. The objective in the case of designing where I live is about choice.....

    As planners we need to hear all sides, period. Check out this site for a view of the other side if you dare....

    http://ti.org/antiplanner/


    (This rant was not aimed at you personally Luca, I just got cranky for a moment.)
    Last edited by Flying Monkeys; 04 Apr 2007 at 5:39 AM. Reason: For fun

  3. #28
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by gsys View post
    For the sake of argument, I suggest that these reasons are as influential, if not more so, than the overuse of cul-de-sacs.
    But wouldn't the cul-de-sac contribute to those reasons. By being isolated in a private cocoon, you can't have a mix of uses within walkable proximity (or anything other than residential). You don't see major arterials, at least the width in the suburbs, in pre-war suburbs even with recent increases in population in the back to the city movement. You have choices in your route and whether you'd like to walk or not. As for mass transit, again goes to walkability.

    People assume that because the area will be gridded, the roads on which they live will be swollen with traffic. Sure a few will be, but the majority will be very light. It's evident in most major cities that secondary streets are still light as compared to major arterials, just the arterials don't clog as much when you have options.

    IMO, one of the best ways to limit future growth of cul-de-sac type development would be to stop the continual widening of interstates and highways in suburban areas. Let people live with their choices for a while instead of 'correcting' the problem every 5 years. I live in a 1920's-30's neighborhood and everything is still the same in terms of number of lanes as probably was back then with the exception of 1 arterial (4 lanes total). Go to a burb, and most roadways are going to be different than they were 5-10 years ago. That's efficiency.

  4. #29
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    As planners we need to hear all sides, period.
    Yes, but all sides do not have equal value.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  5. #30
    Cyburbian
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    I just dont by into the argument that kids are "trapped" by residential collector streets.

    Give me a break. Lace up your shoes and walk somewhere.

  6. #31
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    Would we promote dead end streets?

  7. #32
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Would we promote dead end streets?
    Is there a substantive difference?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Every day is today. Yesterday is a myth and tomorrow an illusion.

    You know...for kids.

  8. #33
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Is there a substantive difference?
    Precisely, mendelman, precisely.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    Would we promote dead end streets?
    There are planners who have promoted dead end streets.... in urban areas where drug traffic and/or high through traffic have been detrimental to that neighborhood, street closures are a common, accepted remedy.

    Call it a cul-de-sac, call it a dead end street.... it can work and is a choice, dogma aside.
    Last edited by Flying Monkeys; 04 Apr 2007 at 11:04 AM. Reason: Took out rant....Took anti-cranky pill.

  10. #35
    Mod Gedunker's avatar
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    Temporarily closing a street, "dead-ending" it, because of a drug problem or a high traffic issue in a neighborhood is a dereliction of duty, IMO. I know it most certainly would not pass muster here.

    Connectivity -- it's not my "mantra", but I am an advocate -- is about more than transportation, although that it a huge element of it. It's also about the public costs borne by the taxpayers for dis-connectivity: inefficient use of municipal labor and equipment to provide services to cul-de-sacs; inefficient infrastructure stubs and the costs of maintaining the same; and, maintenance costs for the road itself.

  11. #36
    Cyburbian
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    ITook the whole mantra thing out...I am a big fan of connectivity, most of the time.

    I think I am just being argumentative. I don't like how neighborhoods have been designed for the last 30 to 50 years, especially when it comes to cul-de-sacs.

    But I have lived on well designed ones. That all I will say on cul-de-sacs.

    P.S. Most of those types of closings are not temporary.

  12. #37
    Cyburbian
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    Just for amusement, check out the plural of cul-de-sac.


  13. #38
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post

    As for some typical comments about more/less 'community' on cul-de-sacs, I would say that is much less tenable an argument and too reliant on the culture/attitudes of the people living there. Saying street design/layout has an appreicable affect on 'community' is a subjective stretch.
    Absolutely true. I grew up on a farm in rural NYS with the nearest neighbors a quarter mile or more away -- and with kids my own age a lot further (I won't even go with how far away my best friends were!). I still have friends who live in my home town and I may eventually move back there when I retire.

    According to all the dogma so many here spout, rural communities ought to be places where everybody is holed up in their own isolated fortress, but they're not! In fact, you will find more sense of community in small towns and rural areas where people are spread out all over the place than you do in the suburbs -- or in cities. I've lived in all three in my time, and have found the rural way of life far more "neighborly".

    That's because communities aren't built by street grids and "density" but by institutions. In the case of rural areas, those institutions are the churches, the local central school, the local volunteer fire department, etc. Neighborliness is a way of life because you know your neighbors even if they live a mile away.

    In fact, if you look at many of the older neighborhoods of older American cities, you will find that the real "glue" of these places, especially the ethnic neighborhoods, were the Catholic parishes with their churches and schools or the Protestant churches or synagogues and the local public elementary schools. Surrounding those neighborhoods were other very local institutions -- credit unions and local banks/funeral homes/libraries/grocery stores/movie theatres, etc. When those institutions became less important to the people living in those neighborhoods, those neighborhoods rapidly disintegrated.

    PS You can flame away. I'm tough!

  14. #39
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    In fact, if you look at many of the older neighborhoods of older American cities, you will find that the real "glue" of these places, especially the ethnic neighborhoods, were the Catholic parishes with their churches and schools or the Protestant churches or synagogues and the local public elementary schools. Surrounding those neighborhoods were other very local institutions -- credit unions and local banks/funeral homes/libraries/grocery stores/movie theatres, etc. When those institutions became less important to the people living in those neighborhoods, those neighborhoods rapidly disintegrated.

    PS You can flame away. I'm tough!
    It's the chicken and egg. Did the neighborhood come apart first or the institutions? I'm sure these things helped to make neighborhoods more neighborly, but there was a lot more going on at the time.

  15. #40
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by SideshowBob View post
    Just for amusement, check out the plural of cul-de-sac.

    I know, although I learned it from Gilmore Girls. I just can't bring myself to spell it that way
    Culs-de-sac it just feels wrong.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian
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    cul-de-sacs aren't very pedestrian friendly however, they also promote isolationism, and take up much more room than a grid system.

    Try having an urban environment with cul-de-sacs, it just won't happen.

  17. #42
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    cul-de-sacs aren't very pedestrian friendly however, they also promote isolationism, and take up much more room than a grid system.

    Try having an urban environment with cul-de-sacs, it just won't happen.
    Not every design decision is about promoting an "urban environment".

    How does a group of SFD homes on individual lots clustered around a cul-de-sac promote "isolationism" more than a high-rise condo or apartment building with in-unit laundry facilities, an underground parking garage, tiny balconies, and no "amenities" like a gym/pool etc? Saying "hi, how are you?" in passing somebody in the hall that you vaguely recognize as living on your floor is hardly a "friendship", nor is it likely to lead to more.

  18. #43
    Cyburbian
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    Did I ever say highrise living wasn't promoting isolationism?

    And yes, all developments need to be about urban environments, and if they aren't, the less-dense development can't consume a lot of land and have to be supported by mass transit, which in turn, has to be supported by sufficient density.
    Either way, even if you don't have an urban environment, you still need them to use mass transit, you still need retail in walking distance, you need a pedestrian-friendly environment. This is not something cul-de-sacs promote.

    Also, as the urban environment expands out from the core as the city gets denser, the cul-de-sacs would be very tough to help weave into the urban fabric without the demolition of many of the buildings and streets.

    Ideally, suburbs need to have a density of at least 7 units/acre. However if they do not, the majority of the residents would still have to use mass transit and walking. No matter what development occurs, it can never be sprawl, has to be pedestrian friendly, promote mass transit, and has to promote transit/walking over personal automobiles.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    cul-de-sacs aren't very pedestrian friendly however, they also promote isolationism,
    You haven't been to my neighborhood where its seems people are always walking, jogging, skateboarding, and biking.

    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    and take up much more room than a grid system..
    I'd like to see the analysis.

    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Try having an urban environment with cul-de-sacs, it just won't happen.
    Some people don't wish to live in an urban environment. I don't. Yes, I live on a cul-de-sac in a low density suburb. And I like it.

  20. #45
    Cyburbian
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    However, do you drive to work? People can't drive to work, and if they do, it'd be tough for them to do so.

    Also cities cannot build low density all the time, because that would equal sprawl, there would have to be sufficient density.
    People do walk, jog, etc... in suburbs, I never said they didn't, but there is still very little life in suburbs. And that is a lot different than walking to go to the store, bar, movies, etc...

    Cul-de-sacs would definitely take up much more room, at least, how idiots who do the suburban lollipop type cul-de-sac design takes up much more room. Like I said, people have to either be able to walk to shop or take a bus to shop, not take their vehicle.

    Sprawl and current suburban design trends (that aren't classified as New Urbanism) are all wrong.

    I'm sure there are ways to develop cul-de-sacs to where they are more pedestrian friendly, less vehicle friendly, etc... but the fact is that, the bad/ignorant planners don't develop them that way today.

    Also, how do people park behind their houses with sufficient density in cul-de-sacs? The only way is with a driveway from the front of the house to the back, and that would have to reduce the size of the house or the yard in order to keep the density.

  21. #46
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    However, do you drive to work? People can't drive to work...
    In my pick-up. I do. Seven miles one-way. Alone. And I drive fast. (It's how I got here from Idaho, too.)
    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Cul-de-sacs would definitely take up much more room, at least, how idiots who do the suburban lollipop type cul-de-sac design takes up much more room.
    As I said, I'd like to see the analysis.
    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    I'm sure there are ways to develop cul-de-sacs to where they are more pedestrian friendly, less vehicle friendly, etc... but the fact is that, the bad/ignorant planners don't develop them that way today.
    My work is done here.

    Quote Originally posted by HeartlandCityBoy View post
    Also, how do people park behind their houses with sufficient density in cul-de-sacs? The only way is with a driveway from the front of the house to the back, and that would have to reduce the size of the house or the yard in order to keep the density.
    My garage is on the back side of my house. Undevelopable wetlands are on the back and one side.

    Good bye.

  22. #47
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    In my pick-up. I do. Seven miles one-way. Alone. And I drive fast. (It's how I got here from Idaho, too.)
    Are you noticing more and more people on the roads with your commute? Or are you in a rural enough area that traffic doesn't increase due to the extreme low density. Did you notice changes in your driving patterns with increased fuel costs?

    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    As I said, I'd like to see the analysis. My work is done here.
    Are we comparing residential areas only, or including commercial needs as well? People have needs beyond their property lines, so if we throw commercial into the mix, do you think cul-de-sac type development with the conventional big box/ strip development is more efficient than a mixed use environment where uses can co-mingle and one can actually walk?

  23. #48
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    On point one, why does John Q. Public care? John may want to live somewhere where mixed-use is not allowed. (no commercial traffic, less noise).

    On point two, I think that you have mistaken design for social science. It's O.K; a lot of planners seem to do this. Design is not a cure, nor is it a scapegoat.....and all the junk science in the world is not going to convince me as a person, or as a professional planner.

    Planners want to talk about choice...transportation choice, housing choice, and recreational choice.... until the choice smacks up against a planning dogma, such as cul-de-sacs. Wham! No more choice, it had better accommodate the latest planning clichés (NU, Traditional, etc). It is so much buzzword bingo. Design should always be approached with an open mind and an objective. The objective in the case of designing where I live is about choice.....

    As planners we need to hear all sides, period. Check out this site for a view of the other side if you dare....

    http://ti.org/antiplanner/


    (This rant was not aimed at you personally Luca, I just got cranky for a moment.)
    There is nothing inherently wrong with a cul-de-sac; they have a purpose, but like anything, if its use is abused, there can be negative consequences. I grew up on a dead-end street (due to a public park / woods on a steep hillside) and now live on a street within a functional grid. The traffic on my current street is similar to the traffic on my dead-end street - virtually non-existent. The traffic grid around me provided multiple options. Just yesterday, I drove two blocks to the arterial road and found that it was blocked, but the grid allowed me to get around it easily. There was no back-up because everyone had options. When cul-de-sacs are overused, those options are not available, and backups occur more frequently. Local streets, including cul-de-sacs are part of a transportation network, and like any network, if it becomes unbalanced, it will not function well.

  24. #49
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Nice link Flying Monkeys, I'm sure that will bring a lot of discussion around my office!

  25. #50
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    The problem with the cul-de-sac is not the cul-de-sac itself
    From an outsider's perspective, ‘connectivity’ as a central tenet of residential planning, and the position that the grid layout is superior to the cul-de-sac takes quite a while to start to understand, if not appreciate. In Malaysia we don’t have the square miles of disconnected loop and lollipop housing schemes in our suburbs; what we have are sprawling developments of super-connected terrace houses, with back-lanes, and side- lanes at maximum 300’ intervals. We don’t have the equivalent of railroad or frontier towns or Jeffersonian cities or New York with their rectilinear grid layouts to be sentimental about. Our towns were mainly unplanned at the outset: rectilinear street plans came later – in the form of terrace house developments that sprouted everywhere. Largely of uniform design and monotonous with a minimum level of communal amenities, they hardly inspire sentimentality about grid plans. The one notable example of gridded townships are the ‘new-villages’ that were set up by the British in the 1950’s, where Chinese farmers (whom the British feared to be communist sympathizers) were forcibly resettled in the fight against insurgency. They have in fact been described as concentration camps. Community feeling in these now sleepy villages is high, but it is doubtful that the residents there would attribute it to the grid layout.

    The new-villagers, like the residents in the terrace housing estates, have had to adapt to their environment. Safety from crime and traffic are major concerns. In certain cases, the streets have been modified – most terrace house streets have humps placed on the roads to cut down speeding. Residents have also closed off the back-lanes, under utilized if not useless bits of public circulation space. There are also many cases of residents placing boom-gates at entrances to their neighborhoods and employing guards to man them. Strictly speaking, this is not legal, but local authorities have closed one eye over this, but now the government has come up with regulation to allow for this in new developments and existing neighborhoods, subject to conditions and local authority approval.

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