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Posted at 1:20 PM ET, 06/ 3/2010

The cul-de-sac's redeeming quality: Spaces for children

By David Alpert

My wife and I both grew up on cul-de-sacs.* These popular elements of 20th-century housing subdivisions have come under considerable criticism. However, there's a lot we can learn from their biggest success: providing safe and visible spaces for children.

We've discussed the flaws of the cul-de-sac before. By limiting street connections through a subdivision, they force all traffic onto major arterials, creating congestion and leading cities and counties to constantly widen them, making them even less pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

It's much harder to walk or bike to other houses, to school or the store when the only route is a very long one, especially requiring travel on a major arterial. Buses have to take circuitous routes or stop far from most houses. Snowplows, emergency vehicles, and other municipal vehicles have to follow longer routes at greater cost.

However, while urbanists and municipal officials aren't fans of the cul-de-sac, many people who grew up on one loved it, at least until they were teenagers. Cul-de-sacs provide one major advantage over standard grids: a better environment for kids' play. In the new book What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs, a collection of essays pondering Jacobs' ideas in the modern day, Clare Cooper Marcus argues that the New Urbanist push for street grids over cul-de-sacs neglects the needs of children.

Continue reading this post by David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington here.

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By David Alpert  | June 3, 2010; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, recreation, transportation  
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One of the flaws of cul-de-sacs is easily cured, if there is the will to do it.

In many places, the end of a cul-de-sac is completely disconnected from the next street or cul-de-sac. However, in Davis, California, the planners require all cul-de-sacs to have a pedestrian/bicycle path connecting each cul-de-sac to the next street. Thus, walking or biking distances are greatly shortened. This would reduced the difficulty of routing buses to within walking distance.

Posted by: jwcross | June 3, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I like this path idea for foot or bicycle traffic. Seems if folks are willing, these would be great Eagle or Gold projects for respective Scouts if the owners of the common land would agree to it.

Posted by: Sharon_59 | June 7, 2010 7:46 AM | Report abuse

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