Good urban design can reduce a city's impact on the environment, and make it more people friendly too.
Nature in Cities
By integrating nature into urban spaces, we can provide habitats for a variety of wildlife. Allowing people to have daily, close contact with nature improves their quality of life.
Roads filled with cars, and urban centres dominated by car parks, make cities less liveable. Reducing the need for cars, and hence the density of car traffic as well as the amount of land devoted to car parks, can make a big difference to the urban experience.
Car dependency can be reduced by providing the city with good, frequent, and well integrated public transport, and by bringing a greater variety of destinations within walking or cycling distance of each other.
A city that consists of a number of medium to high density districts can cut down on the need for cars.
The district should be small enough so that houses, workplaces and other facilities are within walking distance of each other, and of a well-serviced public transport stop that provides easy access to other districts. But populous enough to support a variety of services and job opportunities within the district, to reduce the need to travel beyond the district.
If these districts are clustered together into a compact city form, then journeys by public transport between the districts will be shorter, and more of the city will be accessible by walking or cycling from any given point.
If the districts are spaced further apart then extensive greenspace for food production and nature conservation can be fitted on the land between the districts, thus reducing food miles, and making the urban landscape more interesting.
Existing, low density cities can be reformed by increasing the density of areas around public transport nodes, eg around the intersections of main roads. And by decreasing the density of the areas in between - to reduce the number of people living beyond easy walking distance of district centres and transport nodes, and to make room for more greenspace next to populated areas.
Existing parks and other greenspace should be linked by green corridors, created by unpaving local roads.
Increasing housing and workplace density at urban centres should not be at the expense of greenspace there. This means building up - clusters of multistory buildings.
To reform a sprawling city to greater compactness means more intensive development in districts surrounding the metropolitan centre. But a similar process can occur in outer suburban areas, with the districts around urban regional hubs undergoing development.
Car-Free Cities or car-free areas in cities, or simply more traffic calming measures, can create room for other activities in public places that would otherwise be dominated by cars.
Child Friendly Cities - A social and physical environment that is conducive to human development, allows children, and people in general, to reach their potential, and to enrich their community.
Neighborhoods - The physical layout of urban neighborhoods, and the opportunities for jobs, services, learning, and involvement in government, can make a big difference to the quality of life for those living and working there.
Public Spaces - Urban public spaces are a means by which people can have contact with nature and with other human beings.
Transit Oriented Development - Involves clustering a mixture of land uses around a public transport node.
Urban Form - A compact city in which everyone lives and works within walking or cycling distance of everywhere else, or a network of compact urban districts connected by rapid public transport, minimises the need for cars, and the impacts they cause.
Walkable Cities - We can make our cities more walkable by incorporating features into the urban landscape that make walking a pleasant experience, and by bringing a range of interesting destinations within walking distance of homes and workplaces.
Integrating Nature and the Urban Environment
Source: Greening Cities. Earthbeat. ABC. 2004.1.10
Our cities are growing rapidly, placing pressure on fragile ecosystems. But is it possible to create new urban ecologies that integrate nature and the built environment?
Creating Liveable Cities
Source: Livable Cities: Sustainable Urban and Transport Planning. Australian Conservation Foundation. 2000.10
Our day to day experience of cities is less of "sweeping plains, ragged mountain ranges and jewel seas", more of congested roads, urban sprawl, polluted air and contaminated land and waterways.
Creating a Liveable Sydney
Source: Liveable Sydney. Australian Conservation Foundation
To ensure the long term liveability of Sydney for future generations we need to create a more sustainable city. That means making sure that the natural systems on which Sydney depends are protected so that our community can flourish.
Loss of Urban Liveability
Source: Self in the City. Michael Leunig. Sydney Morning Herald. 2004.1
In spite of its nooks of sophistication, its diverse wonderments and vibrant passages and moments, urbanism has become a merciless mechanism which hurts and damages the spirit.
Urban Design for Communities
Source: Sustainable Urban Design for New Communities in Outer Suburban Areas. Victorian Parliament. 2004
Sustainable urban design involves sustainable buildings, accessibility, water conservation, attractive public open spaces, reduced car dependency, road safety, crime prevention, physical and social well-being.
Creating a Liveable London
Source: Greening London. Colin Ward. Review: Creating Sustainable London. Resurgence.
The authors of this report "do not demand policies of town-cramming to fill up the empty spaces in the city. They want instead the greening of the city with tree-planting, allotments and gardens. They want an integrated public transport policy and the extension of car-free zones. They want to see cycling as the dominant local form of transport, they want self-build and dweller-controlled housing, small industry, small schools, local composting of sewage, solar power generation, combined heat and power schemes, the intelligent use of water, including use of London's waterways."
Source: Reinventing Cities for People and the Planet. Molly O'Meara. Worldwatch Paper 147. 1999.6
Changes in six areas - water, waste, food, energy, transportation, and land use - are needed to make cities and the bast areas they affect better for both people and the planet. Cities can align their consumption with realistic needs, produce more of their own food and energy, and put much more of their waste to use. Citizens and local leaders from Curitiba, Brazil, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, are already showing the way as they overcome financial and political obstacles to put these ideas into action.
Reversing Urban Sprawl
Source: City Limits: Putting the Brakes on Sprawl. Molly O'Meara Sheehan. Worldwatch Paper 156
Citizens and local leaders around the world are using the political process to demand attractive public spaces and better transportation choices. We realize that traffic is a major problem, says Patricio Lanfranco, who is involved in an effort to take back the streets of Santiago de Chile from private cars. But it has a bigger context: What kind of city do we want? What kind of quality of life do we want?
Shaping Urban Growth
Source: How Mid-Sized Cities Can Avoid Strangulation. Molly O'Meara, Worldwatch Institute. 1998.9
Curitiba and Portland have shaped their urban growth towards greater liveability. With neighborhoods in which jobs, services and houses are within walking distance of each other, and public spaces which people value and share.
Shapes of Cities. Green Cities. New Internationalist. 1999.6
From Toronto to Timbuktu the shapes of cities vary quite dramatically. But why
Cycle Friendly Cities
Source: When Cities Take Bicycles Seriously. Gary Gardner. Worldwatch Institute. 1998.9
Promoting urban cycling - by making room for bikes - and encouraging city workers to use them - is a simple, cheap, and effective remedy for the urban car disease.
Rebuilding the City
Rebuilding the City . New Internationalist. 1987.12
We are often told we live in the best of all possible worlds. But there are always other ways of doing things. Here is what city life could be like in the year 2050 - if we plot a future in which quality of city life is a priority.
Cities - Front Line of Sustainability
Green Cities. Vanessa Baird. Green Cities. New Internationalist. 1999.6
Cities are the frontline of sustainability, where the environmental future will be lost or won.
Big Foot, Small World. Herbert Girardet. Green Cities. New Internationalist. 1999.6
Democracy and urban ecology are intimately connected.
Green Cities - Walk or Talk?
Mirror, Mirror... Dinyar Godrej. Green Cities. New Internationalist. 1999.6
Compare Amsterdam, one of the most eco-aware cities in the world, with Indore, which lives in its own mess rather than hurling it halfway across the globe.
Cities versus Cars
Exit from Hell. Peter Newman. Green Cities. New Internationalist. 1999.6
While some cities are deepening their automobile dependence, others are finding ways of breaking free.
Technology to Help Cities Manage Booming USA. Haya El Nasser. USA Today. 2007
Towards a City of Cities (PDF). Warren Centre.
Smart City - A weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life, the people, places, ideas and trends shaping cities.
10,000 Friends of Greater Sydney. - Promoting ecological development in the Greater Sydney region.