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*Parts of the public network, especially in some North American cities, are not particularly safe and passage through them is not easy - even though they respect our suggested models for urban structuring. This problem is beyond the range of this paper, and illustrates the limits of any model - including this one.

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**Providing a short-cut to school grounds is an often-tried way of making extensive continuous greenbelts more significant routes. This is a nice idea, but it takes more than a crowd of children twice-a-day to bring a place to life. And children have disconcerting habit of either walking on the streets anyway, or searching out routes more circuitous than pathways through parks.

the automobile and the pedestrian

A discussion of the automobile and the pedestrian is to some extent peripheral to the concerns of this essay. However, most attempts at re-structuring the city have come in response to some perceived danger or opportunity created by the automobile. Thus a perception of the automobile can be said to be largely responsible for the destruction of traditional urban models.

Stein and Wright’s desire to isolate pedestrians from automobiles was the impetus for developing their new urban structures. An altruistic motive, it was not destructive in itself. However, that altruistic motive lead to an assumption which was destructive: The assumption that urban structure must be drastically changed (in fact turned inside-out) in order to deal with the automobile.

Stein and Wright failed to distinguish between different kinds of traffic, and developed a pattern which explicitly assumes that all traffic is an element to be isolated from other parts of the environment. The residents of Radburn of course make the opposite, implicit, assumption that the routes are different. The lanes, as routes of slow-moving and stationary automobiles, are the focus for social interaction, children’s play, and the functional business of coming and going. The use of busier streets is similar, though there pedestrians survive by staying off the pavement and on the sidewalk.

In many post-Radburn developments two-year-old children are left to play in small cul de sacs without adult supervision, and apparently without adult concern. Side streets are often favourite playgrounds of children of all ages; passing cars slow down while games are temporarily stopped and the cars allowed to pass. The magnetism of streets is obvious when we realize that car-free terrain called “park” is often just around the corner. The pedestrian and the automobile are not mutually exclusive, no matter how hard planners have tried to make them so. In fact, when the automobile is not moving fast they seem to be mutually attractive.

These ideas have been stated more thoroughly by a number of urbanists, and this discussion of cars and people probably seems a re-statement of the obvious to architects and planners. However, if we are to judge from the continued production of hand-me-down Radburn development plans, the implications in regard to urban structure are not so obvious:

  1. The park, as a bucolic element which is the domain of the pedestrian, is an important part of the city. But this pedestrian domain does not have to be isolated from surrounding roads.
  2. Pedestrian safety is important, and demands careful development of areas where automobiles and pedestrians routes coincide.
  3. The demands of pedestrian and automobile are sometimes incompatible, but they can be accommodated within the traditional framework of city block and street, and do not require the destruction of that framework.

parks, pedestrians & cars

Parks bounded by streets satisfy most requirements for public outdoor space. People pass by them and through them providing not only a likely population of casual users, but casual public surveillance. In relation to pedestrian and automobile safety the main requirements seem to be that pedestrians, especially young children and game players, not dash out into the surrounding streets and that where they do cross streets they do so at a limited number of clearly visible places. These requirements can be satisfied by means of level change, fences and planting, and by path, playing field, and tot-lot location.

Despite the observable success of simple parks sitting in the public network, designers are attracted by the idea of large continuous bucolic parks which are isolated from surrounding roads. Such parks do not have the casual surveillance and day-to-day entry and use which we see in parks which are more integral with the public network. Even without these advantages, however, continuous or extensive greenbelts can be successful. Examples which come to mind are meandering pastoral backdrops such as rivers, ravines, or river-bed woods. People move on incidental paths and the rest of the greenbelt is relatively impassable.

There is little territorial confusion or threat even when these parks are contiguous with private space (backyards) because the impassable pastoral backdrop forms a buffer between the public and private domains. There is little inherent casual surveillance of these paths and it seems a question of local crime statistics and a range of social realities whether such woodland walks in the

Parks with open areas and playing fields, as well as walks in the woods, can be continuous elements separated from surrounding through streets - like the large central park in Radbum. However, instead of the Radburn solution of total pedestrian isolation, gradations of automobile routes can be used to insulate the central park and retain the city block as the basic territorial unit. This can be accomplished by a simple adjustment of the Radburn diagram - in effect turning the inside-out inside-out and making it right-side-out again!

Stein and Wright’s 1928 theoretical superblock,
which lead to Radburn, turned tradition inside-out.

By allowing the lanes to be streets, having protective-presentational boundary of facade, entry, and front yard face these streets, and letting the backyards meet at the rear, we create a normal city block pattern. The extensive central park is safe from surrounding through traffic, and the cul-de-sacs leading to the park have only slow-moving traffic:

The Radburn pattern turned - in its turn - inside-out.

This pattern is more consistent with traditional urban forms yet allows safe transition between active play and fast-moving traffic. However, it is implicitly a super-block pattern, and the problems of super-blocks, especially the tendency to become isolated enclaves, are not easily solved.

The central park in the original Radburn plan is part of the public network, reached by sidewalks which are bounded by front yards and formal entries. However, it is not quite so easily entered and passed through - psychically nor physically - as the main streets. The fact that it is a different urban farm accounts in part far this un-ease. But we can also point to two other more specific factors: 1) It is unclear whose park it is - isolated from the more public street by a confusing boundary of little-used sidewalks and non-connecting lanes. And 2) the park, as an isolated place, is not a clear part of normal urban movement from here to there.

Awkward entry is typical of enclaves. Confusion arises not only over entry into the enclave itself but over rights of entry into its different parts. This confusion is different from normal urban experience, where passage through the public network is easy and where the relationship between public and private is clear.*

The “right-side-out” Radburn which I propose in his chapter makes entry into the central park more natural by simplifying the territorial signals. It normalizes, to some extent, residents’ and outsiders’ habits in dealing with the environment. But it retains other problems of enclave development: One passes from surrounding streets to the central park within a traditional framework of streets and facades. However, the park sits behind an extensive buffer of repetitive cul-de-sacs which isolates the park from surrounding patterns of movement. The buffer, by its dimension alone, tends to guarantee that the park will not be part of day-to-day passage through the city.**

excluding the automobile

Urban routes derive significance from:

  1. their importance as ways to get from one point to another, and
  2. their boundary of contributing activity.

The protective-presentational boundary, too, derives significance from complementary characteristics:

  1. It is the protective and presentational boundary between public and private. And
  2. it is the locus of contact between public and private.

In Radburn the footpaths are part of the public network, and bounded by the protective-presentational boundary of the surrounding houses. Yet the footpaths and the facades of the houses are not for normal entry and exit.

In ‘Wildwood’, a post-Radburn development in Winnipeg, the footpaths are so insignificant as normal paths that furniture is often placed in front of the ‘front door’, which faces the footpath system. And when houses are re-modelled a new entry is consistently provided facing the ‘lane’.

The paths are not significant as urban routes because they are less important than anticipated as routes to the park and unimportant as routes to front doors, and because bounding activity does not actively feed on to them. The protective-presentational boundary cannot be significant when it does not form the locus of contact between public and private. The intended public network and protective-presentational boundary suffer this fate because they are unimportant in comparison with the lane, which provides better for daily requirements. It is this comparative difference in efficacy between automobile-serviced and pedestrian-only routes which makes pedestrian-only routes difficult to develop in the city.

In-town pedestrian-only shopping streets are being built all over the world. These “malls” meet with varying success, but are nonetheless our most consistently successful pedestrian-only routes. Often they suffer from limited use outside shopping hours - or they sometimes suffer the opposite fate and become hang-outs for pan-handlers, prostitutes, and drug dealers.

When these malls are successful, that is when they are usually full of people and when they seem to bolster retail sales, they have several characteristics in common. The two characteristics most pertinent to this discussion seem to be 1) that they provide destinations which are necessary - or at least desirable - and 2) that in order to get to these destinations one must inevitably pass through the mall. (In the successful mall the mall itself becomes a desirable destination, and by definition one must pass through it to get to it.) Destination and inevitability are two characteristics necessary to the residential as well as to the commercial pedestrian-only route.

The longer the pedestrian-only route the stronger must be the magnetism of its destinations and the more inevitable must be one’s passage through it. If the magnetism of the destinations is not strong enough to compensate for a long route the long route will be abandoned in favour of easier ways of doing things. Destinations in residential areas seldom have the magnetism of commercial destinations. In order to encourage regular use of pedestrian-only routes in residential areas we have to: 1) capitalize on the destinations we do have (bus stop, front door, school, corner store); 2) recognize how important or unimportant those destinations are (for instance, the front door ceases to be important if it is much easier far everybody to use the back door, or the corner store will be un-used if it is easier to drive to the super-market); and 3) to exaggerate the relative convenience of the pedestrian route (by making it short and direct).

There are lots of ways to make pedestrian-only routes inevitable, short, and direct.

  1. Perhaps the most direct solution is the small park surrounded by buildings and entries on three sides, with a street on the fourth:

    Visitors park on the street and arrive through the park
    - as do the postman and most residents.

  2. If they are not too long and remain important connections streets can be closed off to vehicles:
  3. If a street is only partly closed it can retain the convenience of vehicular access. Traffic is guaranteed to be infrequent and slow-moving on the resulting cul-de-sac. And the park has one side insulated from by-passing traffic:
  4. In order to complete the insulation from by-passing traffic we can invert and repeat the above pattern:

This is in effect the right-side-out Radburn brought down in scale. The park is admittedly not as good for football, but it allows the pedestrian-only environment to be a significant urban route. And more important - it allows the facades which face the park to be significant as the locus of public and private contact.

The reader should bear in mind that this discussion of significant pedestrian-only routes does not discount the importance of larger parks. The point is that if we expect the pedestrian-only route to be an important place - sat in, played in, passed through - we must make it an important part of day-to-day activity, movement, and surveillance. This is in part accomplished by retaining traditional relationships between the route and surrounding protective-presentational boundary. But it also requires that the route be the way to get where one is going a good deal of the time.


Cities have been built for centuries with only occasional pedestrian-only routes - with street pavement and sidewalk being generally the only distinction between vehicular and pedestrian domain. In spite of the increased dangers posed by the automobile, there is a good deal to be said for continuing to build cities with few (if any) routes on which passage is limited to pedestrians. The dangerous automobile can be tamed to live with the pedestrian without our having to exclude it completely from contact with the pedestrian environment. “Intermediate” solutions can insert some of the efficiencies of vehicular movement into the pedestrian environment, and have been tried with some success.

Two examples of such intermediate solutions are the slow-moving trains of open cars which pass through crowds of pedestrians (most often seen at large expositions, or at Disneyland); and bus-only routes which pass through other-wise pedestrian-only malls (as in the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis). The relative predominance of automobile or pedestrian is open to any number of gradations. The purpose of this discussion is less to suggest that any of these gradations is preferable than to suggest that when we think of excluding the automobile from portions of the public network we must be aware of the impact that such exclusion will have.