Chris Bingham recently asked us to take a look at his websites devoted to the designs of EcoTownz and Cloverleaf Cities. When I came across this tagline, it was clear that more Carectomy-investigation was needed: “Eco-towns should aim to cut car use as much as possible. Instead they should be promoting walking, cycling and public transport. Of everything listed here, transport has the greatest potential for improving quality of life.” Amen, brother!
So intertwined are all of the elements that make a community sustainable that it’s hard to know where to begin and what to prioritize. Minimizing car usage clearly ranks high on the to-do list, but this requires less sprawl and denser housing, pedestrian- and bike- friendly designs, good mass transit, and the availability of local industry and resources.
Although Bingham’s designs aren’t exactly fully fleshed-out with all of the minute details filled in, they provide a great foundational blue plan for a community to exist with a minimum footprint. The eco-town consists of 12 districts positioned around a central, downtown district. Each outlying district is a self-supporting village with medium-density housing mixed with shops and businesses. Everything from schools to shopping is within an easy walk; 24-hour public transportation, courtesy of electric-powered trolley-buses, handles the rest. Car use is reserved primarily for travel outside of town when interconnecting trains won’t do, or for the occasional need to lug a bunch of stuff – the perfect model for a good car-sharing program.
The downtown district is built a bit denser, with mixed-use 5-story buildings the norm rather than the 2 to 3-story buildings in the surrounding areas. Thanks to the more centralized layout of housing and businesses, there’s plenty of room for green space ti be liberally interspersed in both settings.
One key point that Bingham’s design nails about what can make cities the greenest choice: by concentrating populations into smaller areas, the surrounding countryside can be left relatively pristine. Less pavement is need to connect McMansions to Wal-Mart and transportation modes like walking, cycling, and mass transit become the obvious choices. Air quality, exercise levels, and the population’s health all improve – as do the conditions for surrounding natural habitats.
Integrated green spaces, small farms in the surrounding countryside, and rooftop gardens help to provide the community’s food and reduce the “food miles” and pollution associated with shipping perishables across the country.
Chris Bingham’s Theory behind it all:
It is often said that we love our cars. This may be true for many people. But some of us would prefer not to drive. Yes, really.
Why? The huge amounts of money our cars cost us, having to battle our way through rush-hour traffic, hunting for parking spaces, dangerous drivers … the list goes on.
Unfortunately, the modern world has been so designed around the car that it is almost impossible to live without one. And so we carry on driving.
This is plainly ridiculous. Cars aren’t exactly good for the environment, with even zero-emission vehicles being enormously wasteful of energy. And while someone driving everywhere because they choose to is one thing, forcing the rest of us to do likewise when we really don’t want to is stupidity in the extreme.
But, says the government, we’re locating new development to be accessible by walking, cycling and public transport as well as by car.
It’s not much of a choice though, is it? Yes we can walk, but we’re still breathing in everyone else’s car fumes. We’ve still got to wait for the little green man just to cross the street. And our overcrowded buses still get stuck behind all those single occupancy cars.
If we’re going to give up our cars we want all the benefits that can bring: clean air, networks of pedestrian streets and excellent public transportation.
Pie-in-the-sky Utopian vision? Perhaps. But there are elements of Bingham’s vision that offer practical alternatives and a wake-up call as to what’s possible rather than continuing to build towards our own demise.
- Birmingham’s Big City Plan
- Australia Announces World’s First Solar-Powered, Free City Bus
- Slowing Down City Life
- Video Indicts City Car Parking
- “Bicycle City”: Perfection, Sans Picket Fences?