The World's Greatest Threat: Cul-De-Sacs?

Mike Lydon's picture

A clever new polemic submitted to the Congress for the New Urbanism has earned first place in that organization's 2009 video contest.  Written and produced by the team of First + Main Media and Paget Films, Built to Last posits that the world's greatest threat is not war, global pestilence, or even the swine flu. No, it is the cul-de-sac. 

Okay, so it may not be the cul-de-sac per se, but the filmakers rightfully make use of the ubiquitous 20th century artifact as a primary symbol for what could indeed be the world's greatest threat: the organization of America's middle class lifestyle.  And while many Americans may continue to have difficulty even with that idea (isn't America's lifestyle non-negotiable?), I hope that more of our country's citizens are tiring of the ongoing media blitz surrounding the seemingly trivial issues of how one can shop 'green' to save the planet.

Fortunately, as the above video displays, hundreds of built projects exist and the know-how is fully in place. Thanks to the new urbanists and smart growth advocates, we can now fight global climate change intelligently. However, just like it's the singular cul-de-sacs in aggregate that create the problem, it will be the singlular policy changes in aggregrate that will provide the solution.

Thus, whether you live on a cul-de-sac or not, please take that message with you. The more educated we become, the more likely we are to participate in the debates that will slowly shift our culture to a more sustainable lifestyle. And as the videographers suggest, we can start by building things that last. 

Mike Lydon is Principal of the Street Plans Collaborative and co-author of Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Actions for Long-term Change (Island Press, 2015).



Fused Grid is best

The suburban cul-de-sac certainly has disadvantages. However people like them because they don't have a lot of cars passing by their house. Why not make the best of both worlds by adopting the "Fused Grid" as the new New Urbanist paradigm? (What gets me is that a lot of planners who are supposed to keep up with the latest have never even heard of the fused grid!). You can learn more by going to:

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