| Visitor columnist
Amongst Gainesville’s city design fanatics, there’s lots of discuss making Gainesville accessible on foot, and there are many good causes to work in the direction of that aim.
Science tells us that individuals who stroll often are in higher bodily and psychological well being. Individuals who stroll about their every day actions use the automobile much less typically, lowering site visitors and the necessity to park. Strolling doesn’t produce toxins or CO2 (aside from respiration), so it reduces the greenhouse impact.
With these broad advantages, why are so few folks strolling often in Gainesville?
Like most American cities, Gainesville grew in the course of the twentieth century, when vehicles grew to become mainstream and cities modified to accommodate them. Immediately, Gainesville stretches over 8 miles, from east to west or north to south. Folks reside, work, examine and store all through this area. A lot of Gainesville was, and continues to be, designed for vehicles, not walkers.
Tips on how to reverse this pattern? Step one is to be practical.
Folks select to stroll when the stroll is possible, comfy, protected, and attention-grabbing.
Strolling is feasible when the walker has sufficient time to maneuver from one place to a different on foot. Most planners say folks will stroll for about quarter-hour, or a mile, to ordinary locations. Due to this fact, we should always estimate strolling utilizing a radius of 1 mile. Evidently, dad and mom with younger kids, the aged, folks with bodily limitations, and anybody carrying giant packages can not stroll this far at this charge.
Strolling is comfy when our bodily wants are met. Too sizzling, too chilly or wet climate makes strolling disagreeable. Tree canopies can alleviate warmth and rain because of nature’s umbrellas. But, given the selection, few folks stroll anyplace noon, midsummer in Gainesville.
Strolling is protected after we do not feel bodily threatened.
Pressing discussions have taken place just lately on the threats from vehicles. Not solely irregular accidents, but in addition quick site visitors, poorly timed strolling alerts and the shortage of pedestrian shelters on site visitors islands scale back the sensation of security for pedestrians. Whereas it is very important enhance security close to the College of Florida, pedestrians are susceptible to motorized vehicle collisions all through Gainesville.
One other concern is crime or the concern of crime. Some tied up younger males can really feel protected day or evening on any road – most of us do not. The ideas of ‘Crime Prevention by Environmental Design‘ (CPTED) establish methods to guard walkers from harm, together with preserving ‘eyes on the road’, so neighbors can watch one another.
When the expertise is sweet, individuals are extra prone to stroll. Jane Jacobs, in her seminal guide “The Loss of life and Lives of America’s Nice Cities,” explains that pedestrian streets set up a spatial rhythm based mostly on the gait of walkers reasonably than the pace of vehicles, and supply visible curiosity to draw walkers.
Within the early 2000s, I took UF structure college students to Los Angeles, to check ethnic ‘foremost streets’ and to the North Carolina Analysis Triangle, to have a look at the primary streets of faculty city related to UNC, Duke and NC State. In every case, the scholars discovered the size of those profitable metropolis streets to be surprisingly quick – solely 4 to 6 blocks. We’ve got discovered an essential lesson, which is that we have to strike a steadiness between the wants of walkers and the power of a neighborhood to assist commerce.
With this temporary historical past, how may we design a extra satisfactory Gainesville?
We might make the institution of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure a neighborhood precedence. For instance, one 12 months within the Nineteen Eighties, metropolis commissioners planted dogwoods on the town’s city rights-of-way.
Immediately, tree canopies, extensive sidewalks and cycle paths may change into a cohesive signature on all main roads in Gainesville, not simply these within the city core. Archer Highway, Newberry Highway, and Waldo / Williston Highway all require particular consideration to advertise the strolling and biking expertise. They’re brutal, however they do not should be.
We may think about Gainesville in a pedestrian zone, based mostly on a number of mile radius. Due to this fact, we may focus design efforts the place denser growth exists, together with all present procuring and academic facilities, and design outward. Placing our private preferences apart, we might cope with Butler Plaza, Millhopper Sq., Walmart supercenters, Williams Elementary / Lincoln Center Faculty, downtown, and different hubs of exercise like city expertise spots inside strolling distance.
We might deal with all of Gainesville the identical. In 2021, the city core of Gainesville is only one of many facilities. We might collectively think about a polycentric Gainesville, rising from the 20th century self-focused, reasonably than trying a nostalgic return to the nineteenth century.
Planning for a workable future would require creativeness, pragmatism, willpower and focus. Will we be as much as the problem?
– Kim Tanzer lives in Gainesville. She is a former UF professor of structure who additionally served as dean of the Faculty of Structure on the College of Virginia.