In today’s day and age, where we have progressed to be the most technologically advanced species on earth, it is not us who controls the layouts of our cities, but the very technology we promote: automobiles. Much of a city’s design you can contribute to the rise of cars before World War II. Most of our cities are sectioned off into large areas of residential, commercial and industrial zones. Much of the time, the only way to get from one place to another is by hopping into a vehicle.
However, a movement of smarter city design was born in the 1980s: new urbanism. This movement harkens back to a time were automobiles didn’t rule our lives. New urbanism is the latest trend cities and towns are adopting, so to revitalize large and defunct areas. The idea of new urbanism design is simple: we should build cities for the primary use of humans, not machines.
New urbanism is the design process which we create cities, towns or neighborhoods more efficiently for personal usage. The development of new urbanism design is counter to the spread-out, one zone designs of typical “modern” cities. By utilizing new urbanism, architects and civil engineers incorporate what used to consist of a standard development plan. We intertwine residential with commercial and industrial, with plenty of options for walking or biking, lots of natural landscaping and a central public area. The idea of new urbanism design is to be able to make your way from the outer edges of development to the center in a matter of minutes, without the need for a vehicle.
It’s popular to bring back what’s retro, so why not bring back our old design process for neighborhoods and subdivisions? But the “retro” factor isn’t the only thing driving cities to adopt new urbanism design when expanding and revitalizing. There are definite advantages to the health of both your city and its residents.
Although automobiles have come to be a staple of modern society, new urbanism looks to reduce the role cars play in our lives. Most cities are set up in a manner that facilitates large areas of residential, commercial and industrial zones, with roads and highways set between them. These city designs lead to a reliance on our vehicles. The drawback to such designs increases auto emissions and congests traffic. However, through new urbanism design, cars take a back seat to bikes or walking. By designing a neighborhood where work, groceries, entertainment and more are all within a short distance of your home, we begin to reserve vehicle usage only for long-trips and special occasions. Automotive buying and maintenance isn’t something everyone can afford to do, so why create a society that revolves around it?
Austin Engineering, a civil engineering company out of Peoria, IL and Davenport, IA, takes significant steps towards designing a future where new urbanism is the national standard. We help cities design and develop new subdivisions with an eye to green solutions and mixed-use property development. Our engineers and landscape architects understand there’s still a place for public transportation and personal vehicles. However, we also wish to enable every person the same comfort and ease as their neighbors.