Tag Archives: Pedestrians

FREE COURSE | Following the Crowd | Movement, Space Use, Risk Management

Following the Crowd | Movement, Space Use, Risk Management examines movement, congregation and space use in crowd phenomenon based on two studies in London during the late 1990s. The first was New Years Eve celebrations in central London and the second is the ‘Diana phenomenon’ of crowd gatherings in public displays of mourning in Kensington Gardens. The course argues two points. First, clearly, there are crowd characteristics particular to specific events, i.e. number of people, time factors, and crowd management measures. Second, many crowd characteristics often represent only a dramatic, temporary intensification of everyday circumstances in urban conditions, which has implications for recent pedestrian-oriented design concepts such as shared space (2.0 hour course).

NOTE: This course makes selective use of space syntax. Even if you are not familiar with space syntax, the subject matter should not be considered a deterrent.

Key concepts: crowds, movement, occupation, police, risk management, urban design.

Instructor: Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A

Check here to purchase this  course (FREE registration required), which includes an two hour video presentation and PDFs of the course supplementary materials and slide handout.

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Planning Naked | March 2016

Planning-2016-03-14Planning Naked | March 2016
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

  1. “Partnering for Success”, this month’s From the Desk of the APA’s Executive Director article by James M. Drinan (pp. 3), is (unintentionally) a perfect illustration of what has gone wrong in this country: it’s not what you know but who you know that matters and accomplishment is measured in terms of knowing who to know in order to profit instead of knowing what to do in order to solve decades of problems in our towns and cities. In the grudge match of ‘Insiders vs. Outsiders’ in today’s America, APA thinks firmly planting their flag in the Insiders camp is a virtue. It’s not: it’s a symptom.
  1. “Coming Soon: Lake Erie Wind Power” by Daniel McGraw (pp. 10) in the News section is interesting but leaves some questions unanswered or unmentioned such as the impact on shipping through the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway. Are northern, industrial cities along the Great Lakes completely abandoning any hopes of recovering industry associated with shipping? If so, why? If the project is viable without a Federal DOE grant, then the grant is irrelevant (i.e. it is corporate welfare for a Norwegian company). It seems like there are larger strategic issues underlying this story than a nominal press release for LEEDCo and Fred.Olsen Renewables.
  1. “Sagebrush Rebellion Redux” by Allen Best (pp. 12) brings up an interesting topic: Federal ownership of lands in the West. I don’t know enough about the particular issues in the Western United States to comment with any authority but I do think there is a more general, legitimate question at the center of the controversy: do we have the right model for ownership, management, and regulation of vast areas of public land for the 21st century? I don’t know the answer to that question but it seems important to better understand an answer and why. This seems further warranted by the Legal Lessons article, “Don’t Mess with Due Process” by Ilima Loomis (pp. 13) since it is beyond ridiculous that it should take 7+ years and counting to decide about permitting and constructing a scientific telescope (surely the design is close to technologically obsolete by this point).
  1. The articles composing this month’s cover (Substance, Role, Form) about comprehensive plans (pp. 14-31) are an editorial disaster. It reads as if the Planning Magazine editors wedged together more than a dozen articles by different authors by synthesizing them together under an awkward thematic umbrella that, in the end, was credited to half-a-dozen principal authors. That’s not to say there aren’t good, interesting items in here (there are) but it’s a chore to sort through the mess and the constant “take (insert ‘community name/plan’ here)” asides are irritating in the extreme. It’s like someone composed a checklist, which can be re-constructed based on these paragraph ‘take this example’ asides. Let me try to help the readers: pp. 14-19 is ‘buzzword’ fluff that reads like a committee of marketing agencies wrote it (ignore it unless you find yourself in need of action verbs); pp. 20-24 (to the first 2 paragraphs) is outstanding because it demonstrates the re-emergence of design (e.g. form-based codes, etc.) as the real driver of new approaches to comprehensive plans and, in typical APA fashion, the awkward structure is designed to subvert the real story in order to re-assert (or, perhaps, soften the blow to) traditional planning approaches in the post-war period; the rest of the content (pp. 24-31) is mostly more planning fluff and buzzwords except for isolated excerpts here and there about PlanLafayette.
  1. This month’s Planning Practice article “Design for Everybody” by Steve Wright and Heidi Johnson-Wright (pp. 32-39) is an insidiously great article that promotes humanistic design principles (i.e. not for the automobile) while cloaking the argument in the language of the left (and, by implication, APA) about addressing urban issues for special interest groups and socially vulnerable populations (e.g. universal design and accessibility for everyone “using simple approaches and thinking holistic”). This article speaks volumes more in 4 pages than the 9 pages (excluding the 2-page title spreads of each) devoted to the cover story.
  1. “Density is Land” by John H. Tibbets (pp. 40-43) is neither about land or density (not really) but yet another article about NIMBYism (“Not in My Backyard”) run amok. The fact is we’re going to be paying for the sins of the last 80 years for a very LONG time, especially in the Southeast.
  1. “Planning for Cities of Awe” by Timothy Bentley ((p. 46-47) is proof-positive that phenomenology (for good or ill) is not dead.
  1. The Planning Library reviews of five books this month are depressing.
  1. This month’s Viewpoint article, “The Displacement Factor” by Daniel Kay Hertz (pp. 52) does the unthinkable to the more-devout disciples of David Harvey and social justice by applying a common sense perspective to the issue of gentrification in cities. Finally, a voice of reason in the wilderness.

Planning Naked is a new series of observations and comments about a recent issue of Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association.

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Planning Naked | February 2016

febplanningPlanning Naked | February 2016
by Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

February must be the ‘clear the backlog’ month for the editors of Planning Magazine because this month’s issue is a strange mixture of useless fluff and wrong-headedness where the eternal bogeyman of the planning profession, e.g. ‘lower property values and higher crime,’ keeps making a spectral appearance in the articles, one way or another. This makes it extremely difficult to pull much of value out of this issue but we’ll try anyway.

  1. James M. Drinan’s “From the Desk of APA’s Executive Director” (pp. 3) editorial does not really say much of anything except “we’re re-launching the APA Foundation charity but we don’t know why.” Here’s an idea: provide some leadership. Student loan debt in the United States has reached record levels ($1.2 trillion dollars in 2015, according to USA Today) that threaten another financial cataclysm. Why doesn’t the neo-APA Foundation concentrate on meaningful and substantive scholarships for the college education of young planners? There, done, leadership. Sometimes, APA’s insistence on ‘navel gazing’ reaches ridiculous levels.
  1. “A Transportation Bill, At Last” by Jon Davis (pp. 8-9) is combines two things that a lot of planners love the most in this world: acronyms and money. Here’s the long and short of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act… oh, a cool acronym… that must mean it’s important because it’s fast!): for every $1 spent on the automobile (e.g. roads), the US Government is spending 0.24¢ on buses and 0.04¢ on passenger rail. It must be great to be a Washington lobbyist for the ‘automobile cartels’. To quote a song from the 1977 Disney film, Pete’s Dragon, it’s “money, money, money by the pound!” “He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.” – Benjamin Franklin
  1. The short bit (pp. 9) about Chicago investing $32 million in bus rapid transit for the Loop is a comedy of errors. Doesn’t Chicago already have one of the best passenger rail systems in the United States in ‘the L’, for which the Loop has already been well served for decades? What is the point of this investment other than to waste money? “Critics say so far it is falling short of the mark (BRT average speed is 3 miles per hour).” Well, of course. That money would have been better invested in ‘the L’..
  1. “Dog Parks on the Rise” (pp. 10) is an interesting piece. I have a dog and she’s part of my family, too. However, it also potentially plays into the planning profession’s ‘regular out’ to provide real solutions for urban problems by instead proposing a park instead because ‘who can object to a park?’ I can. Too often, Landscape Urbanism is code for political cowardice. Let the buyer beware.
  1. “Slight Change of Plans” by Rebecca Leonard and Joe Porter (pp. 12-19) is a dishonest piece. You know that any article that begins with “Here are a few names that will be familiar to planners: Jim Rouse, Bob Simon, George Mitchell, and Ben Carpenter” is setting up the reader for a fall. I am extremely well read in architecture, planning and urban design and I have never heard of any of them. It doesn’t anything say about me as a planner or reader. It says a great deal about Rouse, Simon, Mitchell and Carpenter and, by implication, this article. Here’s what you need to know. Unknown Person 1: Let’s not call it suburban sprawl. Let’s call it community development (code for Planned Unit Development, e.g. PUD). Unknown Person 2: Then we can’t call it sprawl repair. Let’s call it things such as “work in progress”, “change”, and “shift.” I find it hard to believe Leonard and Porter actually wrote the article this way (as I recall, previous articles from Design Workshop were more intellectually honest). I suspect the editors of Planning Magazine have interjected themselves into this article. See the aerial and street view of Columbia, Maryland below. Behold the sprawl and beautiful parking lots!

ColumbiaMDColumbia

  1. “Planning and the Presidency” by Elizabeth Wood (pp. 24-28) is a ridiculous piece of nonsensical fluff with a pro-Hillary Clinton message deeply buried within the article. Planning Magazine actually printed Wood’s notes about the menu at different events! Are you kidding me? There is actually an interesting anecdote in Wood’s article about how Donald Trump deftly handled an angry voter at one of his events, which is informative. Otherwise, this article has very little to say about the presidential candidates because Wood is asking the wrong questions (‘Are you willing to put a planner in a cabinet seat?’) based on the wrong premise (top-down solutions).
  1. “Could You BnB My Neighbor?” by Jeffrey Goodman (pp. 29-33) is worth the read as long as the reader does not swallow wholesale Goodman’s argument about the sharing economy. Here are the key words and phrases of Goodman’s article. “Home owners have taken in lodgers since the first settlement of cities.” This is the absolute, most important point about AirBnb and others in the sharing economy. It is normal. “Where does AirBnB pay its share?” Now we get to the real crux about what is really going on: namely, a money grab by local governments to secure more tax revenues and steal more money out of people’s pockets. Personally, I know several people whose homes were saved from foreclosure by the banks because of AirBnb and the sharing economy. And, as we all know, it is the government (through FreddieMac and FannieMae) who is really standing behind these banks because they are in (and lining) their pockets. The raising of the eternal bogeyman of NIMBYism in lower property values and higher crime only makes more transparent the self-serving arguments of those opposed to the sharing economy. Let’s fight for the normal, not the abnormal created in 1926 by the U.S Supreme Court.
  1. “Tiny House: Niche or Noteworthy?” by Anne Wyatt (pp. 39-42) is probably the best article in this month’s issue though the attempt to take a ‘neutral’ stance about tiny houses is strange (again, I suspect the editors for adding the question mark in the article title). The tiny house movement is one of the most important things happening in the United States today and, ultimately, this fact shines through in Wyatt’s article. As Wyatt says, “The tiny house movement offers opportunity for planners to look at some the planning assumptions.” Lots of planners don’t like to re-examine their assumptions because they know they’ll end up making an ass out of you and me (‘assume’), so to speak. Yeah, so let’s keep putting 650 square foot homes on a minimum 1/4 acre lot. OMG! Density lowers property values and increases crime!

Homepg village final

  1. “Zoning with Stipulations” in The Commissioner by Margaret Wilson and Tom Awai (pp. 48-49) overlooks the main point about zoning stipulations. It is the concept of zoning itself that is fundamentally flawed so you have to have stipulations for legal and practical reasons to compensate for that flaw. Teaching commissioners about zoning stipulations is like placing a Band-Aid over an open wound. Perhaps planners should think about healing the wounds that zoning has open up all over our urban landscapes in the post-war period? Just a thought…
  1. “Contribution of Urban Design Qualities to Pedestrian Activity” by Reid Ewing (pp. 50-51) is both interesting and disappointing, especially given the quality of Ewing’s previous articles in Planning Magazine. While I have no doubt there is a beneficial effect of transparency (e.g. windows) at street level for urban design and pedestrian activity (see Jacobs’ “eyes on the street” or why traditional street-based retail land uses have windows), it is seriously doubtful that the relationship is direct and causal, as Ewing’s article indicates. By his own admission, Ewing’s study did not account for the most important component, i.e. linkages. In fact, I suspect there is either: 1) a lot more to Ewing’s study than he is telling us; and/or, 2) his findings are a statistical artifact of this more important component, i.e. the urban street network itself.

Planning Naked is an article with observations and comments about a recent issue of Planning: The Magazine of the American Planning Association.

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Shared Space | Ben Hamilton-Baillie | CNU22

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”
Tommy Lee Jones, Men in Black

Everyone should watch Ben Hamilton-Baillie’s fantastic one-hour presentation below about shared space at CNU22. It’s a wonderful reminder that urban planners too often design for ‘dumb, panicky animals’ instead of the smart person. At the end of the video, someone in the audience asks a question that perfectly summarizes all that is wrong with urban planning and design in the United States, i.e. what if we get sued? As Poor Richard said, “There is more to life than trying to avoid being sued or going out of your way to sue somebody.” At the bottom is a 15-minute video “Poynton Regenerated”, which provides a shorter summary of Hamilton-Baillie’s arguments in the CNU22 presentation. Watch and learn…

Shared Space, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, CNU22

Poynton Regenerated

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