Congress for New Urbanism discusses improving how people live, work and get around By Micah Davis
This year the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Florida Summit was held in our very own Seaside. It took place in February, and there were a number of notable speakers and interesting presentations from both visitors and 30A locals.
One of the highlights of this conference was Eliza Harris Juliano’s presentation of the Florida Department of Transportation’s ‘Complete Streets’ program. This program would involve making Florida’s streets more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. These changes aim at slowing automobile traffic, and making the streets more comfortable and safer for pedestrians. Creating narrower streets would force drivers to slow down, as would putting parallel parking on either side of the street. Parked cars encourage drivers to reduce their speed, as they have to move more cautiously to avoid accidents with cars exiting their parking spots. The parked cars also serve as a barrier between the moving cars and the pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. Putting trees along the sides of the street provides shade for pedestrians and acts as another sort of barrier between the cars and them. The entire ‘Complete Streets’ project is aimed at rethinking the street as a multi-use urban corridor, and not simply a passageway for cars, as they have usually been treated.
Another conference highlight was a presentation by Ryan Gravel about the Atlanta Beltline, a transformative urbanization project he conceived of while in grad school and which he has been working on ever since. On the project’s website, the Atlanta Beltline is described as “a sustainable redevelopment project that will provide a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit along a historic 22-mile railroad corridor circling downtown and connecting many neighborhoods directly to each other.” Utilizing this abandoned railroad and putting it to use will connect many neighborhoods to each other and to the downtown via rail transit, and create thousands of jobs and miles of pedestrian-friendly trails. It is all the more exciting that the project is being carried out in Atlanta, a city not typically associated with walkability.
The conference also held a panel on how climate change would affect Florida, and Miami in particular. Miami’s streets are currently subject to flooding, and so there are numerous projects underway to create more drainage pumps and to elevate the city’s streets. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, one of Seaside’s principal designers and a Miami citizen, said that while many other cities insist on carrying out a lot of research before taking action on any development project, in this case Miami has recognized that time is not on its side, and that it must act now to protect itself from the effects of climate change. To this end, every time the city installs a new pump, it makes sure there is additional room where new pumps can be installed as the need arises for them. The city of Miami is not only addressing the problems currently facing it, but looking ahead for solutions to future problems.