December 02 2013

Eco-neighborhood or Nice, New Neighborhood? A View from Quebec City, Canada

A view overlooking Limoilou in Quebec City, Canada.

I must admit that like others, I really enjoy the photo coverage done by Jean Cazes. He walks all over the neighborhood of Limoilou, camera in hand, and uses photography to tell us about his changing neighborhood, and everyday things that escape our attention. However, it is not Jean who will be the subject of this article, but rather, his recent photographic experience with the eco-neighborhood of Estimauville’s early stages of development, which made me reflect on the issue.

My first thought: it is sad to see the eco-neighborhood taking shape without any “eco-neighborhood” developing along with it! If we really think about it, these developments tell us a lot about the true label we need to attach to this neighborhood, which is not ready to see the light of day, for that matter. Will it be an eco-neighborhood or just simply a “nice, new neighborhood,” full of pretty buildings?

Let’s return to the basic principles of eco-neighborhoods in regards to transportation. Among these, Quebec City’s site mentions “Development of a network of streets whose design favors pedestrians; Networking of foot and bike paths in order to promote active forms of transportation.”

A pathway accessible to cyclists and pedestrians.

After noting Estimauville’s initial developments, we could ask ourselves how these sidewalks and walkways favor pedestrians. They are high-quality, but are otherwise completely similar to the pedestrian walkways and sidewalks found throughout the city. Yet, there is an array of guides and development tools that enable projects to put pedestrians first. One example comes from NACTO (National Association of City Transportation Officials), a non-profit organization that recently published a guide for developing intersections and streets that privilege pedestrians. Here, we find avant-garde models including raised pedestrian walkways, raised sidewalk sections that mitigate automobile risks while allowing greater visibility for pedestrians, and shared streets for both automobiles and bicycles – a concept that is still under-utilized in Quebec.

To end, there is some good news for Estimauville as well as for Pointe-aux-Lièvres, another eco-district. It is not too late to change course, as the majority of these neighborhoods remain unfinished.

Outside of official definitions and guidelines, which characteristics best define eco-neighborhoods? Does the term risk becoming meaningless?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Marcus Khoury

Marcus Khoury is a recent graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, where he obtained a B.A. in French & Francophone Studies. Aside from his native Michigan, Marcus has lived in several states, in addition to France and Chile. Owing to his experiences with a variety of cultures, languages, and environments, he has always been keenly interested in how the exchange of ideas between different cities, regions, and countries helps to shape both physical and cultural landscapes. His linguistic background, in addition to his interest in the diversity of international urban environments and experiences, has led Marcus to fill the position of French Language Translator at The Grid, where he will be translating and presenting French language material involving environmental design.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2013 at 9:48 am and is filed under Infrastructure, Transportation, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


One Response to “Eco-neighborhood or Nice, New Neighborhood? A View from Quebec City, Canada”

  1. Richard Hall Says:

    The term “eco-neighborhood” is more politically loaded than it is meaningful.

    One might attempt to apply these particular “eco-neighborhood” solutions to my own suburban neighborhood, but given the suburban location where cars are the primary form of transportation, and likely will be for a long period into the future, making impositions such as:
    - reducing car access by reducing vehicle lanes
    - imposing high density housing
    is likely to lead to a neighborhood mutiny.

    They say “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. This is true when comparing solutions for neighborhoods in different locations. There needs to be an avoidance of a “one size fits all” policy that tries to present an urban solution in an environment that is suburban, and where the residents chose to be suburban and want to remain suburban.

    Would a street in 1700s London also qualify as an “eco-neighborhood”?

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