Sprawled Out

Urban Sprawl
My guest writer is Derek Moss of Osmossis.

It has been asked, what are the problems with sprawl? There seems to be a lot of benefit from it and the suburban neighborhoods in which we live are quite desirable. What are the problems associated with our current pattern of growth? This is my attempt to answer these questions. Most of the material is taken from Andres Duany’s Suburban Nation (2000). Please note, I will clarify my position on most points in the conclusion.

Sprawl Defined

It consists of five parts. The defining characteristic of sprawl is that the parts are strictly segregated. The first is housing subdivisions. They are residential zones comprised of single, and if you’re lucky, double access. The second part is the shopping center. The third is the office or business park. The fourth is civic institutions, like public buildings. In Utah this is debatable simply because our churches, meeting houses, and town halls are often integrated into residential zones, contradictory to sprawl. The fifth, on the other hand, is quite prevalent, and consists of the roads “that are necessary to connect the other four disassociated components” of sprawl. Sprawl is the direct result of an idea, followed by the implementation of policies that made it inevitable.

What is Wrong with Sprawl?

Congestion. Roads in the suburbs are arranged in a street hierarchy, including feeders, primary and secondary collectors, and finally arterials. The system forces all or most of the traffic onto one or possibly two major roadways. Even in small towns, because we have designed the system this way, there are signs of congestion and overwhelming traffic. Do not confuse this with main street America, discussed below.

Accessibility. In relation to the system of roads that have been created is the idea that single access and cul-de-sacs means separation. City planners have decided that we don’t want to live near retail or office space, so we’ve created this illusion by allowing for single access only. Although the shopping center may be right next door, it is all too often inaccessible by walking and the user is forced to drive to the spot, which also happens to be surrounded by a sea of asphalt. Shopping and working has developed a stereotype of being large, busy, congested, and undesirable, therefore encouraging its separation from our residences.

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