Neotraditionalist, or new urbanism design, is committed to pedestrian-friendly streets. Details for this type of urban design include mixed-use zoning, garages at the back of residential lots utilizing alleys, and retail areas located on the same secondary streets running throughout the development. Pedestrians and bicyclists become the main focus for this type of development, as opposed to the traditional vehicle-centered approach.
In the past, most urban planning has been based on the concept of the pod and collector system. Development under this design separates uses such as residential, apartment, and retail from one another (pods) and connects them by main arterial streets (collectors). As such, pod and collector developments have been difficult and inconvenient for those wishing to walk or bicycle to different areas within their immediate surroundings.
One major shopping mall in my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, is based on the pod and collector system. The mall is bordered on three sides by main arterial streets, is setback from each of the streets, and has parking lots surrounding it. However, a well-used bicycle trail runs along the northeast side, providing a buffer against another main street. Although this mall is focused on automobile circulation, the opportunity to connect pedestrian and bicycle accessibility seems apparent.
Planning for pedestrian and bicycle-friendly mixed-use developments is important for developing stronger, more equitable communities. Just as important, should be, the retro-fitting of past developments to include accessibility and convenience for pedestrians and bicyclists as well. Not everyone can benefit from future developments, but many could benefit from design changes to existing retail areas.
Urban planners, urban designers, and landscape architects are in a good position to take a look at these developments and make changes to improve them. Expectations of community resistance and support could be resolved with community help. Utilizing current trends, such as social media, is one avenue that could be taken for public involvement.
Try riding or walking up to a mall in your area. How comfortable is it to do so, and how convenient is it?