Community friendly and walkable communities: A case in point

Ever driven through one of the newer residential estates on the outer suburbs to find a friend or relative’s place only to continuously get lost and running into many of the dead-end cul-de-sacs?

I sure do find driving and navigating through those types of neighbourhoods rather annoying.

But how about walking?

Many of these same areas have no footpaths which forces pedestrians to walk on the grass or on the road. Not that many people in these areas would walk, because nearby shops, entertainment and employment are often clustered in small zones miles away from many of these communities. With public transport also often lacking, most people in these areas simply drive.

The satellite photo below is a perfect example of one of these types of communities that were largely built in the 1960s through to the late 1980s. This is from Hope Valley in Adelaide’s northeastern suburbs, but you could be forgiven for believing that it could be a number of other places in the outer suburbs of any of Australia’s major cities. The quiet suburban neighbourhood away from the action was the trend during this era, after all!

Satellite photo of Hope Valley, a typical post-World War II designed suburb.

Take a look at the number of cul-de-sacs here. I can count at least eight in just this small pocket of Hope Valley. The main road running north to south near the right side of the photo is Reservoir Road, which leads into the Tea Tree Plaza shopping centre just beyond the top of the photo. Now note where I’ve drawn the two red circles and trace the most direct path between the two. Not a very convenient route, is it? These may be quiet neighbourhoods, but they completely lack easy accessibility, even to the nearby arterial roads. Knowing people who live in this area, I can also tell you that most of the streets have no footpaths at all!

In the new millennium, some developers have come to realise the importance of something as basic as the street layout on how the new community will function. At Northgate in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, the street layout is a fair compromise between creating easily navigable and walkable communities while designing the streets to discourage through traffic and speeding where it is undesirable.

A satellite photo of Northgate, designed with the needs of multiple types of users in mind. (Source: Nearmap)

In the new Northgate development, the main thoroughfares are easily distinguished by the broad widths while the local streets are kept narrow with numerous bends and roundabouts to discourage speeding and traffic to maintain the amenity of the area. Yet the street connections are direct enough such that a pedestrian can easily walk from one side of the suburb to the other. Even where it isn’t physically possible to drive between certain roads, a pedestrian can still easily walk through which makes for a more convenient journey than having to make large detours everywhere.

The other major differences between Northgate and other post-World War II suburbs is that there is a variety in housing which encourages a more diverse community. There are detached houses as well as units, townhouses and small scale apartment buildings planned for Northgate. It also attempts to integrate itself with other already existing suburbs, instead of creating new isolated enclaves that discourage the social and community interaction that we should be trying to create rather than destroying.

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