City planner Jeff Speck has found the panacea for our ailing cities, something that could make even Detroit come to life again: walking.
In his new book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, Speck lays out something he calls his General Theory of Walkability. It’s not as platitudinous as one might think -- Speck does own a car -- but the book rests on the central point that cities designed for people, as opposed to those engineered for cars, will be the places of urban, demographic growth in the 21st century. If you build crosswalks, Speck’s theory goes, they will come.
“We used to call it New Urbanism -- that’s scary. We called it Neo-traditional Design -- that offended the progressives. People talk about density -- we don’t even need to discuss that,” says Speck, who lives in Washington, D.C., and co-wrote the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. “Reframing the whole argument under the rubric of walkability seems to be changing the game.”
OK. We’ll bite. Tell us, Mr. Speck, why it’s time to abandon our treadmills.
Q. Are you familiar with a band called The Proclaimers?