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Restricting Suburbia's Popular Cul-de-Sacs

Many suburban homeowners find the tranquility of living on a cul-de-sac the ideal choice. However, thanks to a rapidly growing group of critics, hundreds of cities across the nation are changing laws to ban or restrict future cul-de-sacs.
June 8, 2006, 1pm PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
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"One of the most popular features of suburbia is under attack.

For many families, cul-de-sac living represents the epitome of suburban bliss: a traffic-free play zone for children, a ready roster of neighbors with extra gas for the lawnmower and a communal gathering space for sharing gin and tonics.

...While homes on cul-de-sacs are still being built in large numbers and continue to fetch premiums from buyers who prefer them, the opposition has only been growing. The most common complaint: traffic. Because most of the roads in a neighborhood of cul-de-sacs are dead ends, some traffic experts say the only way to navigate around the neighborhood is to take peripheral roads that are already cluttered with traffic. And because most cul-de-sacs aren't connected by sidewalks, the only way for people who live there to run errands is to get in their cars and join the traffic.

...While suburban planners aren't trying to retrofit existing cul-de-sacs, they are making a concerted effort to make sure that new developments don't repeat some of their perceived faults. In cities like Boulder, Colo., and San Antonio, where suburban-style development is still taking place within city limits, new regulations have narrowed street widths in some new developments to make them easier to cross by foot. In a host of cities in Oregon, including Portland, lawmakers have shortened the acceptable length of street blocks to about 500 feet, down from 800 to 1,000. And in Rock Hill, S.C., which changed its rules in March, developers who build cul-de-sacs are required to cut pedestrian paths through their bulb-like tips to connect them to other sidewalks and allow people to walk through neighborhoods unimpeded."

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Published on Sunday, June 4, 2006 in The Wall Street Journal
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