The common wisdom about walkable neighborhoods holds that density – proximity to destinations – determines the number of walking trips. An ideal walking distance of a quarter mile is usually prescribed between residences and the nearest transit stop or retail center.
I don’t dispute that walking distance is important, especially when I’m lugging an armload of groceries. However, some trendy high-density development favors compactness at the expense of comfort and safety.
New Orleans is experiencing a crime wave. High murder rates in the first two months of 2007 have made national attention. Anderson Cooper of CNN has been following this story. So far this year he has devoted two hour-long shows to this topic. I live in central New Orleans and my biggest complaint about the city is the high crime rate. I don’t think our city will recover if we fail to address this most serious issue. Crime makes you ask yourself – should I move to the suburbs where it’s safer and commute? But being a transportation planner, I can’t help but follow-up that question with – If I spend a lot more time driving will my exposure to dieing in a car accident increase? So which is worse - murder or traffic fatalities?
It has been a few years since my last trip to Europe, so perhaps I have selective memory. But I don’t recall having to compete with hundreds of cars or choke down exhaust while exploring the streets of London. I remember navigating through seas of people that filled the city’s squares, alleyways and boulevards.