Saturday 7 November 2015

Happy City

Finished November 1
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

I really enjoyed this book. Montgomery is a journalist particularly interested in the urban experience, and that interest definitely drives this book. Montgomery looks at a number of cities that have tackled the issue of livability for their inhabitants to see what the process has been for them, what barriers they faced during implementation, and what the outcomes were.
He discovered that the advent of the automobile changed urban planning significantly, and this change is still the driving force behind much of the planning models used by cities, particularly in North America. Some of the changes he looks at feed into those that decry the "war against cars", but he reminds us that cities should be for the inhabitants first, not one mode of transportation that some of them use. Many cities that underwent significant changes that lessened the importance of the car on planning decisions had initial pushback, from a number of sources: people with cars, people with retail establishments, and industrial organizations. But after implementation, many of these groups agreed that the change was good. Many of the changes to improve the lives of urban dwellers, also had positive environmental impacts, positive impacts on retail areas, and positive impacts on the city's finances.
While many changes had to do with lessening the role of cars on the urban plan, they also included good transit planning, good housing planning, good neighbourhood planning, good greenspace planning, and good networking between stakeholders.
I learned a lot about the trends in urban planning, the ways that cities learn from each other's experiences, and the importance of involvement at all levels from the neighbourhood level to the national level to see a variety of changes take root.
Montgomery has done his research and includes references to it here, so others can study and learn what might apply to their own neighbourhoods, communities, and cities.

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