There's a Movement Happening - New Urbanism

There is a movement happening across America these days. It's a movement pushing for a change in the way our communities are designed and developed. If you've ever traveled outside the United States, then you have probably seen that there are a number of different ways a community can grow. In America, many people think that the design of our cities need some changing.

One prime example of this trend comes from something called New Urbanism. "Giving people many choices for living an urban lifestyle in sustainable, convenient and enjoyable places, while providing the solutions to peak oil, global warming, and climate change." Check out Amazon and you will quickly discover that there is no shortage of books on this subject.

Things like renewable wind energy, electric transportation on rails, and walkable communities are some of the magic ingredients to a "New Urban" environment. In fact, there's even a handy website at that assists in finding a walkable community. Simply type in the address of a home and receive a "score" of a place that is walkable. The higher the score, the more walkable. The lower the score, the less walkable.

Alan Durning at Sightline Institute writes on their company blog, "Compact, walkable communities—the opposite of poorly planned sprawl—are the solution to some of our biggest shared challenges, from childhood obesity to social isolation, from crash deaths to disappearing farmland, from the high price of gas to the architectural blight of strip development.

But the main reason to love walkable neighborhoods is their human energy: they're fun, lively, memorable... not boring. They're the kinds of places where you might bump into a long-lost friend; stumble across creative inspiration, whether for a song or a new business; or meet the love of your life. (That's why they're becoming among the most sought-after addresses around.)

Still, such qualities are—if valuable—also intangible. "

Another organization pushing for development changes in America is the Complete Streets Coalition. "Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street.

Creating complete streets means transportation agencies must change their orientation toward building primarily for cars. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation agencies routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users. Places with complete streets policies are making sure that their streets and roads work for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as for older people, children, and people with disabilities." Complete streets can help improve safety, address climate change and oil dependence, and foster stronger communities.

In the Madison area, places that come to mind that might fit these descriptions are located Downtown, in the Monroe Street area, or possibly even Middleton Hills. Perhaps one example is the latest proposed development in Bishops Bay by T. Wall Properties. The Alexander Company may be another example of a good job at urban infill development. In fact a number of local builders and developers have joined together to form a "Smart Growth Organization" to help foster good development design ideas for the Madison area.

What do you think? Is it time to change our thinking about community development, growth, and urban design? Or are we on the right path? How so?

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