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Home / Social/Political / The Labors of Hercules: Modern Solutions to 12 Herculean Problems / IX. Urbanism


LABOR IX: URBANISM - Hercules seizes the belt of Hippolyte

The different versions of the Labors of Hercules, especially as recounted by poet and mythologist Robert Graves1, read like nightmares bubbling up from the collective unconscious. Hercules rages at the world and snorts at the sky gods like a wounded bull. He makes many blunders, feels remorse at times, and tries to make amends. This is exemplified in the ninth labor when Hercules is sent to steal the golden, bejeweled belt belonging to Hippolyte, an Amazonian queen. The belt was a gift to her from her father, the war god Ares. Hippolyte was initially attracted to the muscular Hercules, and willingly offered her belt to him. But Hera, the jealous stepmother of Hercules, disguised herself as an Amazon and planted rumors that made the warriors think Hercules was going to take the belt by force. In the ensuing battle, Hercules killed Hippolyte to take the belt.

This story is mythological, but the existence of ancient female warriors is now supported by facts. In 1995, a number of female warriors were found buried with their weapons in a Sarmatian tomb in present day Pokrovka, Russia, near the Kazakhstan border. They were buried between 500 B.C. and 200 B.C., which was about the same time period as the development of the Amazonian myth.2 This somewhat belies popular speculation about a peaceful, prehistoric, universal matriarchy, which is grounded more in romantic thinking than fact, and supports the idea that the rise in town building and technology, which also led to population growth, also necessitated defensive and war-making strategies.

In the few thousand years since humans have been building towns and making war in earnest, the Earth has became thoroughly peopled and bound up with ribbons of concrete. All sorts of thundering, macho chariots charge about, exhaling noxious fumes, while their drivers look for compliant swaths of nature to roll over and subdue. In the meantime, gods and goddesses that were closely aligned with nature have nearly disappeared. The resulting ecological mess is often said to be the unfathomable plan of the one great Patriarch worshipped by followers of the three major monotheistic religions.

However, a more sustainable and nurturing view of the Earth’s future has been taking shape in recent years. Now we use the metaphor of Earth or “Gaia” as a living organism, which is grounded in fact, but expressed in metaphor as a kind of divine feminine. One of the ancient symbols of this revived goddess—the crescent of the moon—happens to describe the shape of a volcano’s caldera that juts above the sea 100 kilometers north of the island of Crete. This dramatically beautiful Greek island, now known by two names, Thera and Santorini, is also sometimes referred to by a third name—Atlantis—because it appears to fit Plato’s description of the famous lost civilization. On the southwestern side of the island, archeologists have uncovered Akrotiri, a technologically advanced Minoan city, which was preserved by an ash fall during the 17th century BC eruption of Thera. Excavations at Akrotiri showed that Minoans had well-engineered, multi-story buildings, and dual plumbing systems that apparently accommodated both hot and cold water. The flooded caldera of the volcano created a distinctive harbor composed of concentric rings that supported a thriving Mediterranean trade. The explosive eruption of Thera, which was about six times bigger than the stupendous explosion of Krakatoa in 1883, put an abrupt end to life on that island. The destruction of Thera, and the tsunamis, ash-falls, and earthquakes that hit Crete may have also marked the beginning of the end of the matrilineal, Minoan civilization.3

Hercules would gaze down from Olympus to witness the wrath of Gaia 1,700 years later. In 79 AD, another Mediterranean volcano, Vesuvius, erupted and buried Pompeii and the town of Hercules, Herculaneum. Ancient myth had it that Herculaneum was founded by and therefore named after Hercules, and the uncovering of the 2,000-year-old towns in modern times has been called the thirteenth labor of Hercules.4 Interestingly, both of these ancient Roman towns have features that are now being re-introduced today into the town planning movements of New Urbanism and New Pedestrianism.

The Town of Hercules: A Roman-Style Pedestrian Village buried in AD 79

No one living in compact Roman towns had to walk more than ten minutes to a commercial center. Walking, calisthenics, sports, bathing, full body skin care, and a diet rich in grains, fruit, and vegetables helped maintain the general health. In the town of Hercules, the main street was a pedestrian promenade closed off to vehicles. Covered walkways, fountains, stores, and workshops teemed with shoppers and people going about their business. At one end of the street was a fountain crowned with a stone bust of Hercules. At the other end was an archway that probably led to the Forum, which was the civic center complete with shops, beautiful public buildings, and temples. Vehicular streets in Herculaneum were paved with stones and had underground storm drains, sidewalks and speed bumps for traffic calming. Public art, architecture, and landscape design were very important. Advertising was restricted, and littering was dealt with harshly. Amphitheaters, bathhouses, most public buildings, and even many private homes were built out of masonry with great attention paid to every detail. The charm of the buildings, which were expected to last for centuries, was enhanced on the outside by plazas with fountains, statuaries, porticos, loggias, red clay tile roofs, and formal gardens. On the inside of the buildings were windows and balconies with views of sea and mountains, peristyle gardens, and interior courtyards. Urban growth boundaries defined the edge of the towns with stone walls, imposing gates, and arches decorated with bas-relief and statues. People of all income levels lived in close proximity to one another and everyone participated in the public life. This pattern was repeated in most Roman towns, which were sustained in harmony with nature for centuries. Even ancient Rome, a city that had upwards of a million people, and which endured for over 800 years, forbad vehicular traffic during certain times so that citizens could walk the streets without fear of being run over.5

The modern world has produced many technological wonders and advances in civil rights. Many of our cities have great buildings, parks, and other places to experience. Some of these architectural and urban planning elements were introduced to the United States during the City Beautiful Movement that lasted from the 1890s through the 1900s. The emphasis on good planning and making the cities better essentially ended with the Great Depression, along with a lot of other activities that could have advanced the public interest. During WWII, American population centers continued to be neglected while the elegant towns and charming villages of Europe were converted into piles of rubble. The global economy recovered after the war, but almost everything from that point on was built in cheap, minimalist modernist style, the existence of which was justified with arcane, vainglorious pontifications from architects keen to make a name for themselves. Their buildings made of steel, glass, and concrete, while initially commanding attention for being different, eventually became overbearing, and ubiquitous. It was called International Style, which was appropriate because it made no reference to local geography, climate, or tradition. It would also prove to be ill-equipped anywhere to meet cultural, aesthetic, or psychological needs. Most efforts to expand on modernism, done partly in an effort to counteract the banality of it, seems to be primarily driven by the ego of individual architects and their sponsors. Today, buildings that clash with or dominate their surroundings are news because of shock value instead of lasting value. Pushed to its extreme, a modern design movement called deconstructivism6 includes buildings that appear to have been pushed over by a hurricane or twisted by an earthquake, and for that reason can complete with other natural disasters for public fascination and outrage.

The slide into modernism began during the roaring 20’s with the mass production of the automobile and the birth of the International Style of architecture and urban design. However, the effects were not widely felt until after the war when attention shifted back to consumers. From the 1950s, urban planning became primarily an engineering exercise in how to move cars around at the highest speed possible.

A 1925 plan by Swiss architect Le Corbusier called for the destruction of the historic Marais district of central Paris and its replacement with broad freeways lined with skyscrapers. In 1927, his dream of the future went like this: “The cities will become part of the country: I shall live thirty miles from my office in one direction; my secretary will live thirty miles away from it too, in another direction, under another pine tree. We shall both own cars. We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline.”7

Le Corbusier’s 1920s vision of the future (Redrawn by Michael E. Arth)

His dream of an automobile-dominated lifestyle, with everything separated by highly specific land use zoning, became our real life nightmare. Officials rejected Corbusier’s plan for Paris, but variations on his vision of the future has prevailed in La Defense, Paris’ satellite downtown, and in the rest of the world as well. His illustration of early 20th century cars on 21st century freeways fails to depict traffic jams, but otherwise it was frighteningly prescient. This plan marked the beginning of the end for aesthetics as well as socially and historically responsible urban design. Both capitalist and communist countries alike readily adopted Le Corbusier’s totalitarian vision. In urban renewal projects and in public housing projects all around the world, deteriorating but functional neighborhoods were replaced with countless towers erected in parking lots next to freeways. To add insult to injury, what Corbusier’s called “Radiant Cities” were dressed up with garish signage, billboards, utility wires, parking lots, pollution, and urban sprawl that further degraded the landscape. This became the standard to which planners aspired, thus resulting in few buildings or towns worth caring about being built in 75 years. Today planning laws in the U.S. dictate that nothing be near anything else, with different types of buildings all segregated by zoning in different areas that are, for practical purposes, only accessible by motor vehicles. Traffic and fire code engineers have developed standardized road widths, corner radii, signage, and landscaping restrictions. These and other rules have restricted tree-lined thoroughfares and encouraged strip development where hideous, low-slung buildings are pushed back behind parking lots or garages.

Transportation standards were supposed to have increased safety and circulation. Instead dreary and monotonous roads are clogged with cars and trucks that diminish our quality of life and perpetuate an annual demolition derby involving 6 million motor vehicle accidents. This ongoing national catastrophe produces 3 million injuries and 42,000 deaths every single year, with about half a million deaths worldwide. The economic impact of these crashes was estimated to be $230.6 billion in 2000, with $170 billion of that being paid through taxes.8 The human, environmental, and economic costs related to foul-ups with our dominant mode of transportation in this country is roughly equal to re-fighting the entire 20-year Vietnam War every 15 months. The death rate from automobile accidents every single month is equal to all American losses in Iraq in both Gulf Wars.

The loss of life and limb and the direct costs of accidents is only the tip of the iceberg. To this we must also add the enormous costs associated with buying, fueling, and maintaining motor vehicles, and the many problems associated with foreign oil dependency, pollution, commuting, automobile-related urban sprawl and other quality of life issues. A 1998 study by the International Center for Technology Assessment9 put the actual cost of a gallon of gas in 1997 at between $5.60 and $15.14 per gallon if all the various external costs and subsidies are calculated in. What must this cost be today—especially once the cost of defending American oil interests is calculated.

As a result of all the misery that has resulted from accommodating the automobile, the words “developer” and “development” have become epithets. Citizens understandably bemoan or actively protest every new development that will inevitably result in more traffic and further degradation of their quality of life.

I have personally witnessed the paving of this road to ruin since I was a kid growing up in a series of Texas towns. In 1964, our family of eight, headed by a geologist working in the oil business, was transferred from Midland to Houston. The next year my dad quit his job with Texaco and took a job with Mobil in Dallas. We moved to Euless, a half-hour commute from Dallas. Euless was a forlorn collection of housing developments divided in half by a commercial strip that had sprung up on a four-lane highway that ran between Dallas and Fort Worth. The next clutch of housing developments down the highway was called Hurst. We kids hated both Euless and Hurst, which seemed like nowhere, and we would respond with sarcastic mock pride by chanting “Euless is useless but Hurst is worse.”

There was some beauty next to the beast. As a boy I used to ride my bicycle to a prairie the size of Manhattan where I collected returnable soda bottles along a nearly deserted farm-to-market road. From the open range I was able make out the downtown buildings of Dallas or Fort Worth, about twenty miles in opposite directions. Since those days, that prairie has been paved over with one of the world’s largest airports, and the sprawl of the two cities has merged together into a “Metroplex” with six million people spread over 10,228 square miles in twelve counties. That’s the size of New Jersey and Rhode Island put together! Today, commuters battle traffic delays during peak hours that increased almost five-fold from 1982 to 2002.10 The Dallas-Ft.Worth Metroplex, the quintessential model of sprawl, is replicated all over the U.S. with mind-numbing regularity and conformity. If the current rate of population growth in the U.S. were to somehow continue, with the same rate of sprawl, there would be a billion Americans in a vast Coast-to-Coastplex by 2100.

Even before those bottle-collecting days in Texas, one of my major life obsessions was urban design. When I was 12, I avidly read a 1965 article in Time Magazine11 about a new town near Washington D.C. called Reston. I loved the idea that new towns could be created, but ultimately became disappointed at what the planners were coming up with. Over the years I spent countless hours designing houses and towns while trying to envision the perfect city. Reston, VA, which would, like the rest of the country, become overrun with cars and modernist buildings, would not be it.

As an adult, I traveled and lived in many places, including five years abroad. I was constantly looking for the perfect place to live, which I never found, except in my own imagination. Nonetheless, my favorite cities had readily accessible public transportation and attractive car-free promenades at their heart, where one could feel the pulse of the city without choking on exhaust or being deafened by the roar of traffic. I lived for two years in Paris, which has a maze of charming narrow streets in the Left Bank, some of which are closed off to cars. I also lived in Munich, which has Marienplatz, a car-free central plaza in front of City Hall, various walking streets, and the delightful 3.7 sq. kilometer English Garden. I visited the major cities of Europe, and all the continents except Antarctica. In 1983, I decided to move to Boulder, Colorado—sight unseen—based almost entirely on the knowledge that the town had created a car-free outdoor mall on their main street.

Later, during the twelve years I designed and built houses in Los Angeles, I lived in a neighborhood called Hollywoodland, which was developed in the Hollywood Hills in the 1920s. The famous Hollywood sign used to read “Hollywoodland” and was an advertisement for this neighborhood, until the word “land” was removed in 1949. While living in Hollywoodland, I would almost every day walk down the hill to the little village center. On the weekends I

Downtown DeLand, FL
would often visit Venice, CA and walk on the canal streets or on the beachside promenade. Or I would drive to Universal’s car-free Citywalk in Burbank, to experience a simulacrum of the life that should be at the heart of every town. In Santa Barbara, my wife Maya and I lived downtown. Every day I walked or rode my bicycle through paseos and outdoor malls, and along miles of seaside trails. In 1999, while researching this book, I spent some time in Florida visiting new towns including Seaside, Rosemary Beach and Celebration, and some old towns in neighboring states including Savannah, Charleston, and Beaufort, SC. All of these places had elements that were vastly superior in terms of architecture, street layout, coherency, and livability compared to the usual sprawl development. However, there was still something missing in all of these towns in the way cars were dealt with. It kills the mood (and sometimes the pedestrian!) to be walking through historic Savannah, Charleston, or Paris and be surrounded by traffic and parked cars.

There are still hints, in some places, of what we could have done better. In the walk-streets of some neighborhoods in Venice, California sidewalks—or canals with adjoining sidewalks—take the place of automobile streets. These car-free corridors in Venice, some dating back to 1905, have sidewalks that are too narrow to accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists, and in many cases people have put up fences or walls that diminish the charm. The walk streets are fragmentary and most do not lead anywhere except to busy, noisy, dirty streets located in a marginal, high-crime area. Automobile access is from narrow, treeless back alleys that are lined with power lines, trash cans, and parked cars. Nevertheless, even with the drawbacks, it is still better than the usual fare. Homebuyers in Venice, including actress Julia Roberts, have paid a 50%-200% lot price premium just to have a house that faces these charming, car-free corridors.

Walk streets in Venice, CA, with and without canals

San Antonio’s Riverwalk (a.k.a., Paseo del Rio, designed in 1927) is a landscaped promenade on both sides of the narrow, winding, flood-protected San Antonio River. The promenade connects various businesses, a shopping mall, sidewalk restaurants, historic buildings, the Alamo, an outdoor amphitheater, and an arts and crafts marketplace. With seven million visitors a year, it is so successful that the rest of the central business district is a ghost town by comparison.

All over the U.S. there are car-free promenades that attract visitors eager to walk in a safe, attractive, and stimulating environment. Examples include the Boulder, Colorado outdoor mall, various theme parks, Disney Downtown in Orlando, Citywalk in Burbank and Orlando, and 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA. In many cities one can find car-free, seaside promenades, theme parks, zoos, and botanical gardens. For lack of a better place, people also flock to local corporate-owned and regulated shopping malls. Here, despite the harsh echoing of sound creating by the indoor location, the relentless focus on merchandising and shopping, the paucity of social amenities or housing, and the necessity to drive to and then park in the sea of cars that surrounds it like a moat, the mall is still a place to walk in a car-free environment.

In Radburn, NJ (1928), in certain European communities, and in a Village Homes in Davis CA (completed in 1981) greenbelt trails or open spaces were put in behind residences. I proposed this sort of street pattern myself around 1973 (See town plan for “Corfu New Town”). While this idea is vastly superior to automobile suburbs, especially when coupled with sustainable solar power, orchards, and gardens, as is the case with Village Homes, it is still not optimal because the open spaces decrease density and increase travel distances. Neighbors are not as close together, so community connections are not optimized. At Village Homes, the dated, ranch-style houses have an unattractive street side with junk-filled carports, and the greenbelt view is of the rear of the houses. The narrow meandering paths are not necessarily shaded, thus further reducing the incentive to use them for purposeful, efficient, alternative travel to a village center (which does not exist in this development). Even so, compared to typical sprawl development, Village Homes is a successful, ongoing experiment in sustainable, pedestrian-oriented living. The crime rate is reported to be one-tenth of the surrounding area.12


In 1999, while beginning to write this chapter on urbanism, I developed an urban design philosophy that I call New Pedestrianism (NP). New Pedestrianism is a more ecology, aesthetic, and pedestrian-oriented branch of New Urbanism, which in turn is a revival of the old urbanism. Traditional urbanism, which can be observed in older cities all over the world, incorporated many effective principles and practices in town building that predate the automobile. Some vestiges of these traditional towns survive, but they have become universally compromised by the automobile. For example, in crime-ridden Naples, Italy I recently observed a once-charming public square that had become privatized into a valet parking lot. The cars were packed in so tightly that they could only be moved like a giant sliding puzzle by the manic, chain-smoking hoodlums who guarded the keys. I gave up trying to cross the plaza and instead took my chances weaving around cars that blocked the sidewalk along the surrounding streets. Whether it’s Naples, Beijing, or Dallas, traveling to almost any city in the world has become a journey conducted through a labyrinth of noisome, cacophonous, traffic-choked streets.


The New Urbanism13 movement has addressed many of the problems that have been introduced by the automobile age. It is an attempt to combine traditional street patterns and design with modern requirements to create compact, livable, walkable neighborhoods and towns that people care about. Other important goals of New Urbanism include preservation of older neighborhoods and buildings, enhancing public transportation, and encouraging connectivity.

New Urbanists seek to safely amend Department of Transportation guidelines, traffic-engineering requirements, zoning and planning laws, building and fire codes, and other regulations to allow these improvements. Most of these improvements have been written into the Smartcode,14 a comprehensive form-based planning ordinance, that has been developed by the Duany Plater-Zyberk Company (DPZ) and is available for free.

Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts, almost none of the New Urbanist projects adequately reduce the impact of motor vehicles or properly address pedestrian/bicyclist safety and comfort. When retrofitting existing cities, it is a difficult problem to surmount because of existing street patterns that cannot be easily modified. However, in new towns and neighborhoods this can be done very easily. Pedestrian lanes in front of houses and business can be so pleasant and alluring that people feel drawn to walk or bicycle on them without interacting in any way with the noise, filth, danger or aesthetic degradation from automobiles. At the same time, automobiles are here to stay and they must be accommodated as well. Providing alternative travel possibilities and requiring all new developments to be Pedestrian Villages would vastly reduce the number of car trips for those people living there, thus reducing the overall impact on the existing roads. This would reduce energy consumption, improve mental and physical health, save money, be more sustainable and efficient, and increase the cohesiveness of the community.

Cul-de-sacs and gated communities are widely used in automobile suburbs as a desperate response to issues of safety, aesthetics, and traffic congestion. New Urbanism promotes connectivity to get rid of cul-de-sacs and gated communities, but does not sufficiently address problems created by motor vehicles.

Other important elements of New Urbanism that also apply to New Pedestrianism are:

1. Design ranging from a single building to a whole city that takes into account human centered concerns of all kinds that result in the highest public benefit.

2. Urban Growth Boundaries: Setting a boundary to the towns and cities, so that development can be concentrated in a more efficient, more sustainable manner that also makes other New Urbanist elements more easily realized.

3. Walkability: a neighborhood or town center is within five to ten minutes walk and walking is made easier with pedestrian-friendly features including street trees, buildings close to the street, on-street parking, concealed parking lots. Pedestrian streets are sometimes incorporated in intensely commercial areas.

4. Aesthetics: Emphasis on attractive public buildings and homes with a sense of permanence that enhance community-building activities and increase social networks. Reduction of billboards, clutter, overhead power lines. Increase in landscaping, especially street trees planted in formal rows that enhance the beauty and harmony of streets.

5. Environment: Increased connection to nature, with street patterns, public transportation, parks, and buildings that are built with green principles in mind. Creation and maintenance of an urban forest.

6. Sustainability in all areas, including reducing the use of fossil fuels by lowering automobile use and commuting.

7. Connectivity: (narrower) two-way streets all connect to one another. Cul-de-sacs and gated communities are discouraged. With New Pedestrianism, cul-de-sacs are permitted for automobile streets, since Pedestrian Lanes become the principle throughways.

8. Traffic calming devices: narrower streets,

9. Diversity of use and diversity of people: Mixing of all types of people, with no segregating by housing cost or age. Mixed-use is encouraged, with varying density, shops, schools, and entertainment that help give a neighborhood texture and a sense of place.

10. Creating a well-defined center to the neighborhood or town with attractive human scale public spaces.

11. Alternative transportation including rail, bus, Increased density to benefit community and alternative transportation

12. Livability: Adding up all of the above results in a better life, a more stable community, less stress, more walking (which results in less obesity and better health in general). Safer, friendlier, better relationships, more independence for children. Access to nature. Less time spent in traffic, environmental benefits. More efficient use of infrastructure, more economic.



Higher quality of life; Better places to live, work, and play; Higher, more stable property values; Less traffic congestion & less driving; Healthier lifestyle with more walking, and less stress; Close proximity to main street retail & services; Close proximity to bike trails, parks, and nature; Pedestrian friendly communities offer more opportunities to get to know others in the neighborhood and town, resulting in meaningful relationships with more people, and a friendlier town; More freedom and independence to children, elderly, and the poor in being able to get to jobs, recreation, and services without the need for a car or someone to drive them; Great savings to residents and school boards in reduced busing costs from children being able to walk or bicycle to neighborhood schools; More diversity and smaller, unique shops and services with local owners who are involved in community; Big savings by driving less, and owning less cars; Less ugly, congested sprawl to deal with daily; Better sense of place and community identity with more unique architecture; More open space to enjoy that will remain open space; More efficient use of tax money with less spent on spread out utilities and roads


Increased sales due to more foot traffic and people spending less on cars and gas; More profits due to spending less on advertising and large signs; Better lifestyle by living above shop in live-work units - saves the stressful & costly commute; Economies of scale in marketing due to close proximity and cooperation with other local businesses; Smaller spaces promote small local business incubation; Lower rents due to smaller spaces and smaller parking lots; Healthier lifestyle due to more walking and being near healthier restaurants; More community involvement from being part of community and knowing residents


More income potential from higher density mixed-use projects due to more leasable square footage, more sales per square footage, and higher property values and selling prices; Faster approvals in communities that have adopted smart growth principles resulting in cost / time savings; Cost savings in parking facilities in mixed-use properties due to sharing of spaces throughout the day and night, resulting in less duplication in providing parking; Less need for parking facilities due to mix of residences and commercial uses within walking distance of each other; Less impact on roads / traffic, which can result in lower impact fees; Lower cost of utilities due to compact nature of New Urbanist design; Greater acceptance by the public and less resistance from NIMBYS; Faster sell out due to greater acceptance by consumers from a wider product range resulting in wider market share


Stable, appreciating tax base; Less spent per capita on infrastructure and utilities than typical suburban development due to compact, high-density nature of projects; Increased tax base due to more buildings packed into a tighter area; Less traffic congestion due to walkability of design; Less crime and less spent on policing due to the presence of more people day and night; Less resistance from community; Better overall community image and sense of place; Less incentive to sprawl when urban core area is desirable; Easy to install transit where it's not, and improve it where it is; Greater civic involvement of population leads to better governance

Drawing from a synthesis of these lists, combined with what has worked elsewhere, it seemed clear that the solution in new neighborhoods and towns is to build Pedestrian Villages that segregate cars from pedestrians. We begin by replacing the front street into an ample (12’ to 15’), tree-lined, shared-use lane (a.k.a. Pedestrian Lane) for pedestrians as well as people on quiet, low-speed rolling conveyances such as bicyclists, rollerbladers, Segways, electric scooters, skateboarders, and wheelchairs. A minimum of seven feet of smooth pavement should be allocated for the wheeled conveyances and a minimum width of five feet with stamped concrete or brick should be on the pedestrian side. The width of the lanes and the texture coding insures a harmonious shared use. For infill or isolated developments with a small number of homes, the shared-use lane can be narrowed down to as little as six feet.

The Pedestrian Lanes
are shown in red,
streets in yellow.

Pedestrian lanes should be in front of every house in every new development, and they should not only connect to each other throughout the development but also to a village center, and to other Pedestrian Villages or the surrounding community. This would make it easy to use low impact, alternative travel, and create a pleasant linear park that connects to every home and business. All homes and businesses should be serviced with a rear street that allows full access and parking for motor vehicles. The rear automobile street would also be tree-lined, and the houses would have formal garden gates where visitors arriving by car could call. Homeowners would be encouraged to build guest quarters above their garages to increase density, provide less expensive alternative housing, and to give a presence on the street. This would work for row houses or free-standing houses. Trash collection and underground utilities would also be serviced from the rear. These leafy, peaceful, yet vibrant pedestrian lanes would connect to plazas, courtyards, parks, playgrounds, grand promenades, greenbelt trails, woodland paths, waterfront boardwalks, schools, and commercial centers. Walking and biking, done in a routine manner in a Pedestrian Village, would address the epidemic of obesity, increase safety, and help solve a wide range of problems related to transportation, ecology and aesthetics.

Generally speaking, residences on quiet streets are more sought after than those found on busy streets. For that reason, cul-de-sacs, dead-end streets, narrow streets, and private driveways are considered highly desirable. By contrast, all homes in a Pedestrian Village would face car-free lanes. This fact alone would prevent the tyranny of judging locations simply based on street characteristics and traffic circulation. Pedestrian lanes also add value by interconnecting to a wide variety of amenities. The lots can be also be smaller, because once the traffic and parked cars are hidden at the rear, it is perfectly acceptable to move the house closer to the pedestrian lane in order to increase charm, safety, and social interaction. This increases density and makes the neighborhood more walkable, thus allowing for more resources to be devoted to public amenities. The paved area is generally less than the New Urbanist model, which has a street with sidewalks, and a paved back alley. All of these features make New Pedestrianism attractive to both developers and future residents.

New Pedestrianism showing street pattern in a Pedestrian Village. Typical front and rear
residential elevations shown. Note that the automobile street is also tree-lined and attractive.

In 1999, I began designing urban projects and new towns to show how New Pedestrianism could work, including a car free town at Two Harbors on Catalina Island, off the Southern California coat. (See illustration below.)

I also scouted various towns, blighted neighborhoods, and clusters of buildings across the country that I could rehabilitate as a living laboratory to test some of the proposals. I was especially attracted to bungalow courts, which are clusters of bungalows built around courtyards that were very popular in Southern California in the early 1900s. Many of them have car-free courtyards and concealed parking. In 1987, I lived in a bungalow court in the Hollywood Hills, and even considered buying it in 2000 before finding a challenging project in Florida.


Before: Slum in 2001

After: Phoenix Court in 2004

I was intrigued by a listing in a small town in Florida for a cluster of barren, concrete block buildings that were only two blocks from a traditional main street that was in the process being revived. The houses and duplexes were set around a treeless, hard-packed sand pit that was used for parking, which was lightly scented with the aroma of an overflowing dumpster. A snarling dog was tied to a stake to monitor visitors. Despite these challenges, it had the potential of being turned into a bungalow court because the three lots they occupied were owned by one entity. The most serious drawback was not the condition of the buildings. They were actually some of the better ones in the neighborhood. Rather it was the fact of their location in a small but pernicious slum, which in turn was composed mostly of structures that were abandoned, burned out, or otherwise decrepit. The buildings were also punctuated with overgrown empty lots. The area was peopled with a mostly transient population of crack cocaine dealers, vagrants, addicts, hookers, and criminals engaged in all sorts of unpleasant activities. In order to not be swallowed up by the wave of crime and crud, I had to buy up enough buildings to turn the tide. Within a short time I accumulated 30 homes and businesses, either from owners eager to sell or from a tax auction, and spent six years retrofitting Cracktown into something more like a Pedestrian Village. Other people also joined in and spread the redevelopment into the surrounding blocks. Recently it was awarded historic designation, and it is now considered to be one of the most charming neighborhoods in DeLand.15

The buildings set around the treeless parking lot were turned into Phoenix Court. Front porches now overlook private gardens defined by picket fences, and residents have a view of the communal central fountain, and palm-lined pedestrian lanes. The Garden District, where I still live with my family, is close walking distance to historic downtown DeLand. In the course of being a designer, developer, landlord, and employer, I got an education in community building, and intend to use those skills in building Pedestrian Villages from scratch.16

Some Garden District Buildings before and after rehabilitation

It is hard to change the built environment for the better, which makes it all the more frustrating for me see that with every passing year our country just gets uglier and less habitable for most living things. Continual disappointment at this spreading blight sits in my gut like a stone. Nearly every street and building in America bears the scars of poor choices that have been made since the dawn of the automobile age. The only thing more disappointing than having to suffer with it is to hear some people defend it by saying that people are only being delivered what they want by the market. When almost everything that is offered is automobile sprawl, determined by standardized zoning and traffic engineering standards, people will choose it only because they are not being offered a choice. An important factor in accepting the acceptable is habituation—we are just used to it. Some people will defend it, just because “that’s the way we do things here in America,” or say “move to Europe if you don’t like it.” Some critics say that New Urbanism is nostalgic, or fighting progress, or an attack on property rights, free speech, or patriotism.

In reality, citizens all across the political spectrum—even many libertarians endorsing the dog-eat-dog political philosophy—do not like sprawl, traffic congestion, and what author James Howard Kunstler calls the national automobile slum. Nonetheless, I have occasionally heard critics complain that New Urbanism is only embraced by liberals and that any legal constraint on design or growth is a restriction on liberty.

I tested this hypothesis by conducting some informal interviews with the residents of Celebration, the New Urbanist new town built near Orlando. After one resident blurted out, “We’re all Republicans here!” I looked no farther. Subsequently I discovered a number of conservative thinkers who support New Urbanism, which is not surprising since it advocates a return to town planning that is closer to traditional community values. Paul Weyrich, who founded the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank, and is one of the founders of the American New Right, has written a series of articles in support of New Urbanism.17 A Presbyterian Minister, Eric Jackobsen, has written a book in support of New Urbanism from the conservative Christian perspective.18 Also, conservative architect Philip Bess, has written in his book, Till We Have Build Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred, an enthusiastic endorsement of New Urbanism:

My conservative argument for urbanism...goes like this: The best life for human beings is the life of moral and intellectual excellence lived in community with others. All communities exist for the sake of some particular purpose its members commonly hold to be good. The singular and defining good of the city is that it is a community of communities, the purpose of which is to promote the very best life possible for its inhabitants. Good cities do precisely that. Thus, cities are in themselves a valuable and objective human good; in this view, politics—and even the most devoutly held political beliefs—are subservient to the good for which cities exist… the essential New Urbanist argument is simply that the physical form of the cities matters to human wellbeing, that there are observable and repeatable physical patterns of traditional human settlement-making that have served human beings well over long periods of time, and that therefore these physical patterns of human settlement ought to be studied, extended, and improved rather than abandoned to the current legal and cultural regime of sprawl that often prohibits and almost always discourages good urban design.19

Furthermore, in response to libertarians, Bess said, “We believe that individuals have both rights and obligations, that individual well-being requires good communities, and that liberty is not license... Individuals should have as much freedom as justice allows.”20

The fact is that most people, regardless of their politics, want to be surrounded by beauty in a dynamic, livable community with attractive, tree-lined streets and convenient amenities. Most people want to be close to both work and play and not be a slave to the automobile. Unfortunately, we are slaves both to our cars and to the degraded urban environment that supports them. In Douglas Adams’ various forms of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy an alien in human form is assumed to have studied Earth before arriving and then concluded that cars are the dominant life form, apparently with earthlings as their friendly carbon-based parasites. The alien takes the name Ford Prefect in order to become “nicely inconspicuous.” Soon after arriving on Earth Ford attempts to shake hands with an actual Ford Prefect that is speeding toward him.

As easy as a SUV squashes a pedestrian, the post WWII rush to the automobile suburbs, abetted by construction of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (commonly known as the Interstate Highway System), devastated the centers of our cities and towns. What sprawl started, the Drug War and strip malls finished. The inner cities became battlegrounds. Even small towns like DeLand developed ugly, dangerous slums.

Pruitt-Igoe: Part of Le Corbusier's
vision was dynamited in 1972

Neighborhoods in many bigger cities were bulldozed to make room for high-rise public housing developments like the notorious Cabrini-Green Chicago.21 In DeLand, a 25-acre public housing project replaced a golf course adjacent to what would later become my own neighborhood. In St. Louis, a neighborhood was replaced with 33 eleven-story buildings in the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex. These buildings became infamous in 1972 when the vertical slums, which had never been fully occupied, had to be demolished only 14 years after they were finished.22 Apparently, the memory of it was so toxic that nothing was ever built in its place. Pruitt-Igoe was designed by modernist architect Minoru Yamasaki. He was the same man who designed the World Trade Center, which at first was infamous for being big, tall and ugly, and then, like Pruitt-Igoe, was famous for having been destroyed. Now public housing projects all over the country, including Cabrini-Green and DeLand’s housing project, are being demolished and, in some cases, being replaced with traditional style housing that lends itself to community building.


While the inner cities languished, the suburbs had their own problems. Isolation inherent in suburbs, where a sense of community is lacking, has brought on psychological and even physiological distress. Shopping malls are offered up as the alternative to community, but privately owned and controlled indoor environments, where spending money is the only encouraged activity, does not create a rich tapestry of history, social encounters, activities, and interactions that a community needs to survive.

As John Howard Kunstler, the author of The Geography of Nowhere, said:

Suburbia has all the spread-outness of the country, but none of the rural amenities—nature comes only in the form of the lawn, the juniper shrub in the bark-mulch bed, and the berm between the K-mart and the housing development. Suburbia is the country de-natured. Suburbia has all the congestion of the city and none of the social excitement, none of the cultural amenity. Suburbia has luxurious family rooms with wall-sized TVs and plenty of bathrooms per inhabitant. But the public space is impoverished—nowhere for teenagers to hang out except the parking lot in front of the Dunkin Donuts.It’s a raw deal for everybody. It makes people lonely and crazy, and then it makes them feel bad about that because it’s supposed to be the American Dream—it’s supposed to make us happy, and if it doesn’t, well, there must be something wrong with us.23

What was promised to be the American Dream has turned out to be the National Automobile Slum. The United Parking Lot of America, from sea to shining sea. The automobile suburb is an experiment that’s failed. We ought to simply declare this to be the new reality of the 21st century, and get on with the job of creating a human habitat that is worth caring about and worth living in.


The New Urbanism movement was, and is, an attempt to change this. New Urbanism had its first stirrings in 1960s with the publication of Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities. But it was not fully born until the early 1980s with the design and construction of Seaside, a new beachside town in the Florida panhandle. Seaside, designed by husband and wife team, Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, revived traditional town planning concepts and coupled it with architecture that combined the new with the old. This husband and wife team, and other urban designers, then went on to found the Congress for the New Urbanism.24 Today there are many New Urbanist developments around the world, where attempts are being made to make the cities livable again.

New Pedestrianism addresses the shortcomings of New Urbanism, which has often been compromised by having to overcome institutionalized planning laws. When New Urbanism is hybridized with sprawl development, as in compromised pseudo New Urbanism, the result is development that is still dysfunctional and car crazy. The most successful examples of New Urbanism include the first new town, Seaside, and it’s sister, Rosemary Beach, which actually has boardwalks in front of some of the houses. There is no reason why new towns and neighborhoods cannot be built with the same charm and attention to detail that attended these resort villages.

All new and old towns, even the best of the New Urbanist developments, lack elements that could resolve the transportation, ecological, social, and quality of life issues. Reviving traditional urban design by itself does not adequately address the fact that there are more cars on the road, nor does it sufficiently separate cars from pedestrians and bicyclists. In 2004, I founded a design and development company, Pedestrian Villages Inc., which will endeavor to build new neighborhoods and towns that follow these principles:

1. Attractive, tree-lined streets for automobiles are located behind homes and businesses. Garages are located at the rear, and driveways are deep enough for parking behind the garage or carriage house.

2. A tree-lined pedestrian lane 12’ to 15’ wide is located in front. The houses are built close to what is a quiet and charming linear park. Front porches, picket fences, and small gardens will take the place of wide expanses of water hungry lawn.

3. Guesthouses above the rear garage are encouraged, along with garden walls, gates, and trellises, in order to provide low cost housing, enhance the beauty of the automobile street at the rear, and increase density.

4. Every neighborhood and new town has a village center that everyone can access easily without a car. In a small neighborhood, minimum amenities would include a general store/café/restaurant, a neighborhood swimming pool and gym, a postal facility where everyone picks up their snail mail, a playground, a public transit stop, and a natural feature such as a pond, lake, river, or beach. Live/work offices or shops would also be encouraged.

5. Every village has a design review board to help insure that each new building is an asset to the community. Villages are laid out with concern for aesthetics, access, and livability.

6. Visual pollution: Utilities are underground. Billboards are forbidden and signage is minimized.

7. Villages are designed for future use including alternative energy sources, conduits for high-tech communications, and public transportation.

8. Urban Growth Boundaries with Greenbelt trails surround each village and connect to surrounding areas including any neighboring villages.

9. Traditional architecture is encouraged, front porches are required. Design review board mandatory. Certain “wild streets” are allowed with looser, more experimental design standards.

10. Formal street trees and drip irrigation are required at the time of initial development to establish the urban canopy. The streets are designed for both automobile and pedestrian safety.



200 block of East Voorhis Avenue, in DeLand, Florida, looking west. This shows a narrow street lined with cathedral-like oak trees that were planted a half-century earlier. The building close to the street on the right is a traditional neighborhood grocery store where the owners lived in the apartment above. The trees shade the sidewalks that lead to the main street only one block away. All shopping was within five minutes walk.


The oaks were cut down and the street was widened in the 1960s. The trees were not replanted because the Department of Transportation (DOT) prohibits trees next to the road. The wide-open feeling of the road led to much higher traffic speeds and contributed to the demise of the neighborhood. Because the sidewalks were no longer shaded from the hot Florida sun, even the one block walk to downtown became uncomfortable for half the year. Almost all the houses on both sides of the street in the next block were demolished and replaced with parking and empty lots. The destruction of the trees and the houses, the exodus to the suburbs, and the national War on Drugs resulted in this neighborhood becoming a crime infested “Cracktown.” The buildings on the right, abandoned by their owners, turned into hangouts where drug dealers and prostitutes plied their trades. The crumbling buildings were condemned and slated for destruction when I bought them and much of the surrounding neighborhood in 2001.

2001-2007: NEW URBANISM

Over a 6 year period my helpers and I renovated 30 homes and businesses and revitalized the mixed-use core of what I now call the Garden District. We planted palm trees next to the road and put in a traffic calming four-way stop, but only after an exhausting year-long battle with a county traffic engineer that finally resulted in the county council granting a variance from the DOT guidelines. The restored former grocery store (on the right) became my art gallery and the museum of the neighborhood with an apartment above. I rented the building on the right corner to a family that opened an upscale tearoom. The artsy, pedestrian-oriented, downtown neighborhood became home to people of various incomes and professions. Flowering crape myrtles and native palms now line the street and shade the sidewalks. We also gained historic designation of the neighborhood to enforce design guidelines on new development. If we were looking at a Pedestrian Village, the street would be hidden at the rear, and this would be a Pedestrian Lane—a linear park.


“Made ya look” – That’s exactly the problem.
It makes you look at litter against your will.

1. Aesthetics: A billboard is litter on a stick. Billboards destroy the visual character, and the livability of any place they are found. This also produces a negative economic impact on tourism and the quality of life. Billboards have already been banned in four states--Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont—because of these facts.

2. Billboards have a negative effect on local economies in general. Only a few people profit from them, and lobbying groups influence politicians to ignore the public will.

3. Threat to public safety: Studies have shown that billboards add to stress and increase accidents.

4. They are often used to promote the most lethal drugs in our society: alcohol and tobacco, and are used to indoctrinate children from an early age.

5. Billboards cannot be turned off. The public is force fed advertising against their will. Like listening to ten TV stations at once, when everyone is shouting, very little gets heard. They just become visual noise. Tourist-Oriented Directional Signs (TODS) with basic information about facilities and businesses available at crossroads and freeway exits, and electronic devices that give out information are more than adequate to direct the consumer.

6. Studies show a negative correlation between billboards and property values

7. Current laws, such as those found under the Highway Beautification Act (HBA) actually encourage visual pollution and gives public money to billboard companies to move or remove billboards.

8. Trees are often cut down to make billboards more visible.


Katrina-style cottages on a Pedestrian Lane

Even for the average person, our psychological needs are not being met very well by our American cities, which are designed more for automobiles than for people. Pedestrian Villages are for everyone, and that’s why I have proposed them not only for higher income developments, but also for Kisima Kaya, a proposed new town in Kenya, and as a solution to homelessness elsewhere. All new neighborhoods and towns should be Pedestrian Villages, for they are the best way to address the problems that beset our cities. In the case of Pedestrian Villages for those who are mentally disabled, in transition to or from prison, or temporary homeless for various reasons, these villages can be nearly car-free, thus saving on infrastructure and maintenance.

Kisima Kaya: A proposed Pedestrian Village in Kenya

A separate Pedestrian Village is not the answer to low-income housing for the working poor unless it has mixed-income housing. The movement toward providing housing throughout a diverse community is correct because it helps break the cycle of poverty and builds social capital. A 2005 study showed 750,000 Americans without homes, but as many as three million could be homeless for some period during any given year. A Pedestrian Village that is separate from other developments could deal with the adult homeless, and perhaps older runaways, but it is not the answer to taking care of families with kids. The U.S. is ranked second to last among the 21 richest countries in child welfare. That problem could be partially addressed by insuring that families get integrated back into society as quickly as possible.

Our current Band-Aid approach to homelessness doesn’t work. Recently, a friend told me he saw a man steal a candy bar from a store, walk outside, and then wait for the police. The officer returned the candy bar and the man was taken to jail where he got the proverbial “three hots and a cot.” That uneaten candy bar cost taxpayers maybe $1,000, but we got off comparably cheap. I know a homeless man who suffers from schizophrenia and alcoholism. Every time he passes out, a team of police, fire, and medical personnel takes him to the ER, followed by several days at rehabilitation. At $10,000 per incident, plus all the other trouble and expenses he has run up with agencies and individuals over the years, he has cost us dearly, and we have not done him any good.

During the time I spent rebuilding the slum, I lived amidst and employed both the homeless and the working poor—groups that included ex-cons, substance abusers, and those with mental disabilities—I developed great empathy for those on the fringes of society. However, as a landlord and a family man, I also experienced anger and frustration as I was confronted with break-ins, littering, violent crime, and other problems from people who are pushed into these acts because of their circumstances. Recently a neighbor of mine shot and killed a suicidal homeless man who came at him with a knife.

The latest incident finally pushed me to design Tiger Bay Village near Daytona Beach.26 The county site is adjacent to a wide variety of services, including a jail, a prison, and various drug rehabilitation centers. The lakeside village, surrounded by a forest, could have architecturally appealing housing ranging from multi-bed barracks to Katrina Cottages. The residents could build and maintain the village themselves, and could also tend the community garden and orchard. There could be a labor placement service that could provide prescreened workers to local businesses. The village could meet the needs of the temporarily homeless and also those who, for their own safety and the safety of others, should have some buffer from the wider world. For much less than we spend now treating the homeless like packs of stray dogs, we could instead enable them to have charming homes and amenities that would be a temporary stop for most, and a permanent solution for some.

Tiger Bay Village: A proposal Pedestrian Village for the homeless

We pay dearly for the misery that unhappy people inflict upon themselves and others. Most of the permanently homeless have psychiatric problems. When their basic physical and psychological needs are not met, it becomes impossible to properly address their psychiatric needs. Everyone needs food, clothing, attractive shelter, meaningful work, a sense of purpose, love, hope, empowerment, community solidarity, and a connection with nature. Without these things, any of us would have a hard time finding fulfillment in life.

Funding cutbacks have driven the mentally disabled into the streets. These people, combined with other homeless people, find themselves scorned and resented as they shuttle among agencies and charities. Combining existing services and charities in a neutral setting that meets everyone’s needs would be efficient and it would solve the thorny NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) issue.

Instead of building mental or social institutions, the U.S. incarcerates at a rate six times that of Canada. Building Pedestrian Villages would attract those who would otherwise commit crimes to get out of the weather, and can act as a halfway house for those leaving jail or prison. A bed in the village would cost a fraction of what a jail bed costs and it would help mold a better person. I don’t have all the answers, and some details will have to be worked out in real life. Nevertheless, I’m confident that if we are willing to try this we will discover a compassionate, effective, and affordable model for solving the homeless crisis that can work anywhere.


The most effective way to implement New Pedestrianism is to plan for it, and write it into zoning and development codes as the preferred choice of development (called PV Zoning, which stands for Pedestrian Village Zoning). This directs all future development into this form with great efficiency. Also through zoning, we can take the golden, bejeweled belt of Hippolyte and turn it into a greenbelt of priceless value to contain the urban sprawl that is devouring the rural land around each city, and to protect some open space between Pedestrian Villages. The public cannot afford to buy up and administer all the land that needs to be protected. Land use must instead be done with enlightened planning, civic design, and zoning that will direct growth into Pedestrian Villages and protect the environment. Properly designed greenbelt protections, also known as urban growth boundaries (UGBs), are crucial to limiting sprawl. There are number of existing infrastructure-related problems besetting our cities that will continue to have profound consequences in every aspect of society, but we have to start somewhere. With the U.S. growing by 3 million people every year, and the world growing by 200,000 people every day, these changes would help move us closer to that New Jerusalem. Copyright © Michael E. Arth 2007, All Rights Reserved. All photographs, plans, and illustrations are by Michael E. Arth.


Typical suburb from 1950 - present
Typical lot size = 9,000 sq. ft.
House size = 1 story, 2,000 sq. ft.
Total Paving = 2,500 sq. ft.
Garage located in front
Garage unit not allowed
Porch is miniscule

  • Automobile-Oriented, with hierarchies of wide sweeping streets.
  • Distances are not walkable and streets are hostile to pedestrians.
  • Stores are reached by driving to a strip mall.
  • Buses ("Loser Cruisers"), and other forms of denigrated public transportation, are accessible by car.
  • Large lots, big lawns, small imagination.
  • Garage dominates the front of the house.
  • Utility poles and wires dominate the view of the sky.
  • Disposable architecture, usually suitable only for being driven past at high speed.
  • Sidewalks, if any, are contiguous to the street.
  • No formal street trees, tree planting is at the discretion of individual owners who tend to move often from one faceless suburb to another.
  • Houses set far back from the street are usually only one story tall.
  • Single-use zoning, houses segregated by price.
  • Cheap to build, but costly to maintain.
  • Represents an inefficient, unsustainable use of resources.


Traditional Neighborhood Development
Typical lot size = 4,000+ sq. ft.
House size = 2 story, 2,000 sq. ft.
Total Paving = 1,400 - 2,300 sq. ft.
Garage located in rear
Garage unit allowed (400 sq. ft.)
Porch is ample

  • Narrow, Interconnecting streets in traditional style neighborhoods.
  • Alleyways for garage collection, rear access, and service of buried utilities.
  • No parking allowed in alley, parking allowed on front street.
  • Sidewalks protected from the street with a planting strip and formal rows of street trees.
  • Neighborhood center and public transportation is within a quarter-mile/five minute walk.
  • Smaller lots, more compact neighborhoods.
  • Houses close to the street, with porches where homeowners can sit and interact with strolling neighbors.
  • Low, semi-transparent picket fences at front, if any.
  • Houses at least two stories tall for aesthetics, efficient use of space, and creation of a enclosing "street wall."
  • Architecture and landscape design connects with local climate, topography, history and building practice.
  • Garages accessed from the alley or from street with a long driveway.
  • Living unit above garage encouraged.


Combines New Urbanism with enhanced pedestrian amenities

Typical lot size = 4,000+ sq. ft.
House size = 2 story, 2,000 sq. ft.
Total Paving = 1,200 sq. ft.
Garage located in rear
Garage unit allowed (400 sq. ft.)
Porch is ample

Above and Below: Canals and walkstreets in Venice, California

Pedestrian streets are used all over the world in growing numbers of commercial and mixed-use areas. Pedestrian streets and pathways are used most famously in Venice, Italy in conjunction with canals. They are also used, along with both canals and streets, in Venice, California (1905) and along San Antonio's River Walk (1929). Narrow, winding pathways also run through common areas in front of residences, such as in Radburn, NJ (1928), and in Village Homes in Davis, CA (1978), but formal pedestrian lanes combined with a village center using the same street pattern has not yet been tried.

However, compact residential and mixed-use developments, based on the principles of New Urbanism, now make Pedestrian Lanes and Pedestrian Villages, a simple, practical solution to various automobile-related problems. The plan replaces the rear alley with a traditional street and creates a tree-lined, formal pedestrian and bike lane in front where motor vehicles would be prohibited. This arrangement effectively relegates vehicles to the back street where they belong, while still accommodating them as well as in a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND). Here are the primary benefits compared to a TND:

  • Paving: Reduction in paved area, compared to TNDs. Less initial cost and maintenance.
  • Fewer Cars-More Savings: Reduces car usage.
  • Safety: Reduces annual 42,000 deaths and 5 million injuries, involving 27 million crashed vehicles. Seperates cars from pedestrians much more effectively than suburban or traditional developments.
  • Health: Fewer accidents, lower health costs, less obesity, improved general health resulting from increased walking, biking and lower stress.
  • Aesthetics: Beautiful and charming.
  • More trees: Formal street trees front & rear.
  • Less pollution: Less air, noise and visual pollution.
  • More efficient: Optimizes the use of the land that is used.
  • Enhanced Public Space: Brings a park-like public space to the door of each home, which then connects to all other neighborhood amenities and a village center.
  • Increased Value: Increases both real property and community value.
  • Walkability: Especially benefits children, the handicapped, and the elderly. Children can walk everywhere, parents are freed from the role of chauffeur.
  • Social Networks: Enhances social interconnectivity.

Click images to enlarge

I. Pedestrian Lanes & Automobile Streets Combined

Formal Pedestrian Lanes shown here combined with a village center, where cars and pedestrians are provided for equally but separately. Pedestrian Lanes are shown in dark green. This Pedestrian Village was designed to replace the old Austin, Texas airport. (1999)


II. Car Free Pedestrian Villages

Car free villages can be built where it is practical to eliminate cars altogether. This car free village was designed in 1999 for Two Harbors, CA, on Catalina Island.


III. Pedestrian Villages with Cars Hidden Below

Left: Paseo del Mar in Santa Barbara, CA. Center: The Palm Garden, DeLand, FL. Right: The Palm Garden showing retail promenade level with parking hidden below. The mixed-use complex with retail offices and residences overlooks a natural-style pool with waterfalls and a tropical botanical garden.


All photographs, drawings, and plans are by Michael E. Arth


  1. Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths, volume 2. Middlesex, England. Penguin Books, pp. 84-153. ISBN 01402.05096
  2. Secrets of the Amazon. PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_amazon/index.html
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santorini
  4. Deiss, Joseph Jay. The Town of Hercules: A Buried Treasure Trove. Malibu, CA: The J.Paul Getty Museum.1995 ISBN: 0-89236-222-7. p.43.
  5. Kostof, Spiro. The City Assembled: The Elements of Urban Form Through History. Boston, Bulfinch Press, 1992, p. 286
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstructivism
  7. Le Corbusier, The Radiant City. New York. Orion.1967 (originally published in 1935)
  8. National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/
  9. The CTA-International Center for Technology Assessment. The Real Price of Gasoline, Executive Summary 1998. http://www.icta.org/doc/rpg%20execsum.pdf
  10. Texas Transportation Institute.
  11. Time Magazine, 18 Miles from the Capital May 21, 1965. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901722.00.html
  12. Village Homes website: http://www.villagehomesdavis.org/
  13. For more information on the principles of New Urbanism can be found at the Congress of New Urbanism website: http://www.cnu.org/
  14. http://www.tndtownpaper.com/images/SmartCode6.5.pdf
  15. Roberts, Carolann Griffith, Saving a Neighborhood. Southern Living Magazine April 2004. (http://michaelearth.com/gard_sl_april04.htm)
  16. The story about the Garden District and New Pedestrianism is told in the feature length documentary, New Urban Cowboy: The Labors of Michael E. Arth. (GoldenApplesMedia.com, NewUrbanCowboy.com)
  17. Weyrich, Paul M. The Next Conservatism: Conservative New Urbanism, 9-19-2005 (http://www.cwfa.org/articles/8986/CWA/misc/index.htm)
  18. Jackobsen, Eric, Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith (Christian Practice of Everyday Life), Grand Rapids, MI, Brazos Press, 2003, ISBN 978-1-58-743-057-2
  19. Bess, Philip, Till We Have Build Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred. ISI Books, December 20, 2006, Chapter 12
  20. Ibid.
  21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabrini-Green
  22. Kunstler, John Howard, The Geography of Nowhere. New York. Touchstone, 1994. p.79
  23. In a speech to the Florida AIA in Orlando in 1998.
  24. Duany, Andres, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, New York, North Point Press, 2000.
  25. For more information about billboards go to: http://www.scenic.org/billboards
  26. Arth, Michael E. Pedestrian Villages: A National Solution to Homelessness that Begins Here. Orlando Sentinel. 1/20/2007 http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/volusia/orl-vol-arthessay012007,0,3658819.story?coll=orl-news-headlines-volusia




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