Walk, Don't Drive: How to make your downtown more 'interesting'

Author and urban planner Jeff Speck should be happy to see cranes once again poking their heads above downtown skylines from West Palm Beach to Miami Beach, but more residential housing in urban areas is only the beginning of the pedestrian-culture revolution he’s after.  For us to realize the many lifestyle improvements that he says come with creating walkable cities, the stroll must offer a more “interesting” alternative to the drive.

“In most American cities, walking will remain a choice,” Speck told a National Public Radio audience last year. “For many years, I think, into the future, driving will remain cheap enough and parking will remain cheap enough. And what we're trying to create is pedestrians by choice. And what that means is that the walk has to truly be useful, it has to be safe, it has to be comfortable, and it has to be interesting.”

On Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority will host a public forum and book-signing with Speck, former director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts, and the author of “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” and “Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.”

Speck says that after years of “shouting into the wind” about the superiority of the social environments of cities vs. suburban sprawl, the argument now has more momentum.

"What happened in the last decade is that these other groups who get a lot more attention — doctors, economists, scientists — have begun to realize that the traditional neighborhood and particularly urban neighborhoods are much more sustainable environmentally, much more successful economically, and much, much better for us in terms of our health."

IF YOU GO
Author Jeff Speck will take part in a public forum 6-8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at West Palm Beach City Hall (401 Clematis St.). A book signing with complimentary beverages and hors d’oeuvres begins at 8 p.m. Admission is free. Call 561-833-8873 or go to WestPalmBeachDDA.com. More info: JeffSpeck.com.

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