A Sociologist Explains Why We Shouldn't Dismiss the Cul-de-Sac

With their anti-urban inward orientation, cul-de-sacs are representative of the auto-oriented, privatized suburban development model. But one sociologist is out to demonstrate their benefits by showing how cul-de-sacs can develop social cohesion.
October 17, 2013, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Books like Bowling Alone have traced the decline in community engagement in postwar America, and connected such trends to the growth of suburban lifestyles. But, as Emily Badger explains, findings published by sociologist Thomas R. Hochschild Jr. in the Journal of Urban Planning and Development may upend our ideas about how suburban environments contribute to social cohesion.  

"In sociologist's terms, Hochschild ultimately concluded that people who live in traditional bulb cul-de-sacs have the highest levels of attitudinal and behavioral cohesion (covering both how they feel about their neighbors and how much they actually interact with them)," she notes. "People who live on your average residential through-street have the lowest levels (in between the two are 'dead-end' cul-de-sacs that lack that traditional, circular social space)."

"To Hochschild's thinking, all of this means that we may want to weigh the social benefits of the cul-de-sac against the engineering critiques of how they fit into the larger street grid," adds Badger. "Or, better yet, he envisions designing cul-de-sacs that more directly connect to main, walkable routes to school or the grocery store, in an effort to address both schools of thought."

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Published on Thursday, October 17, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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