Coherent argument about cul-de-sacs

gsys

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#22
Don't hate the Cul-de-sac, hate the game the Cul-de-sac plays.

"The problem with the cul-de-sac is not the cul-de-sac itself," the dude says, and I agree.

I grew up in a neighborhood that had cul-de-sacs - maybe not to the extent many developments do today. It was nice, nothing like the suburban helltopia stereotype. We socialized in our front yards, back yards, side yards, driveways, and even in the street itself. It was both and idyllic and enriching environment for me. I think the cul-de-sac is a scapegoat for problems that actually have other causes.

Walkability - There's no reason sidewalks/bike trails can't continue where a street doesn't; you'll see a "cut-through" bike path every once in a while off a cul-de-sac, and I wonder why it's not in more widespread use. Heck, in real neighborhoods with kids, everybody just cuts across each other's yard anyway. Arguably, the lack of traffic makes some cul-de-sac-afflicted areas more walkable.

Cul-de-sac farms necessitate monster arterials?
Surely they contribute, but they're not the prime culprit. I submit that the scale of the massive arterial barriers problem tends to be proportional to the size of the metropolitan area. The reason you see these problem spring up in larger areas is not because of the existence cul-de-sacs, but because there are a hundred square miles of them, and that their residents all work elsewhere, and have to commute through each other to get there. If this residential wasteland were on a grid, then the traffic-barricaded areas wouldn't be the cauliflower-like developments, but even smaller units. I say the real problem is insufficient proximity and mix of development types.
 

cdub

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#24
Cul-de-sac farms necessitate monster arterials?
Surely they contribute, but they're not the prime culprit...The reason you see these problem spring up in larger areas is not because of the existence cul-de-sacs, but because there are a hundred square miles of them, and that their residents all work elsewhere, and have to commute through each other to get there...
Doesn't this equate to cul-de-sacs as the prime culprit, being there's a hundred square miles of them? Would there be the same issue with a hundred square miles of gridded neighborhoods and commercial areas?

The quote from Jeff Speck is spot on, while cul-de-sacs may create a small haven of supposed safety, sense of community or whatever, once you leave that, you're pretty much in a wasteland. No place to walk to or want to walk to. How can you lessen car dependence with a scenario as such. I equate the cul-de-sac typology with a funnel, they may all come from different spots, but their going to bottleneck at one point. Commercial areas are the same, limited connections between immediately adjacent strip centers. And then people whine about traffic and wonder why it happens.

As for larger back yards, is that really the case? Homes in sprawl type developments are typically located towards the rear of the property, creating more semi-public space and less private. A quick drive through most 50's and 60's type burbs will show this. A drive through newer developments will show practically no backyard at all and a front yard that's all pavement.
 

gsys

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#25
Doesn't this equate to cul-de-sacs as the prime culprit, being there's a hundred square miles of them? Would there be the same issue with a hundred square miles of gridded neighborhoods and commercial areas?
To your second question -

IANAPP (I am not a professional planner), but my belief is yes, given the same ratio of residents to jobs, and a shared commuter destination outside the area that required a trip through it by most. I believe this can be witnessed in large, gridded residential areas. Even at low density, traffic levels would be considered undesirable by many would-be child-raising residents.

I think there are several reasons (aside from a lack of cul-de-sacs) why you don't see as much congestion in those nice, pre-war single family residential neighborhoods.

1. The subdivision suburbs dwarf the gridded area in most metros. They're seriously huge.
2. The city is better served by the existing transportation infrastructure. Somebody living in Exburbia has to take an expressway 10 miles flanked by subdivisions to get to a freeway. A person living on a grid probably has to drive about a mile. The fact that most urban residential areas in America have lost population over the past few decades means the transportation network is more adequate than it might have been.
3. Old, gridded neighborhoods have a better mix of development types, and more small businesses diluted throughout.
4. Old gridded neighborhoods traditionally have had more poor people, who are more likely to ride the bus or be unemployed. I don't know if this is the case anymore.

For the sake of argument, I suggest that these reasons are as influential, if not more so, than the overuse of cul-de-sacs.
 

Luca

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#26
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.
 
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#27
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.)
 
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cdub

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#28
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.
 

Jeff

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#30
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.
 
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#34
Would we promote dead end streets?^o)
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.
 
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Gedunker

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#35
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.
 
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#36
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.
 

Linda_D

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#38
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!
 

iamme

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#39
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.
 
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