WALK­A­BLE CITY How Down­town Can Save Amer­ica, One Step at a Time

The Washington Post Sunday - - BOOK WORLD - By Jeff Speck Far­rar Straus Giroux. 312 pp. $27 — Justin Moyer moy­erj@wash­post.com

Es­pe­cially in large East Coast cities, noth­ing an­noys drivers more than pedes­tri­ans. They jay­walk. They clog in­ter­sec­tions with their irk­some ca­nines and over­size strollers, which of­ten end up dent­ing the fend­ers of oth­er­wise­un­marred SUVs. And they al­ways have the right of way. But, ac­cord­ing to ur­ban plan­ner Jeff

Speck, cities live or die by their walk­a­bil­ity. “Af­ter sev­eral decades spent re­design­ing pieces of cities, try­ing to make them more liv­able and more suc­cess­ful, I have watched my fo­cus nar­row to this topic as the one is­sue that seems to both in­flu­ence and em­body most of the oth­ers,” writes Speck, coau­thor of “Sub­ur­ban Na­tion,” a best­seller that took on au­to­mo­bile­sup­ported sprawl 10 years ago. “Get walk­a­bil­ity right and so much of the rest will fol­low.”

Speck’s 10-step man­i­festo for more walk­a­bil­ity urges more trees, smaller roads to dis­cour­age driv­ing, more in­ter­est­ing ar­chi­tec­ture and more com­pli­cated traf­fic pat­terns. Such lessons should speak to may­ors ev­ery­where, but Speck lives in D.C. Since he’s lo­cal, “Walk­a­ble City” is es­pe­cially rel­e­vant to District res­i­dents who have seen ma­jor cor­ri­dors rein­vented — or, from the per­spec­tive of some cab­bies and op­po­nents of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, sac­ri­ficed — for bike lanes, car­shares and pedes­tri­ans.

Case in point: the DC USA shop­ping mall in Columbia Heights, which features a Tar­get, a Bed Bath & Be­yond and other na­tional chains new to the once-blighted area. “DC USA has be­come a re­sound­ing success, hav­ing brought new life to a strug­gling eigh­bor­hood,” Speck writes. “And the park­ing garage is empty — so empty that its man­agers rou­tinely shut off one of its two lev­els com­pletely, an un­vis­ited $20 mil­lion un­der­ground air mu­seum.” Though Speck’s stri­dent anti-au­to­mo­bile rhetoric will frus­trate trans­planted sub­ur­ban­ites par­tial to car-friendly strip malls and drive-thrus, “Walk­a­bil­ity” sheds light on what re­born, re­built cities such as Washington will need to suc­ceed as gas prices con­tinue to rise.

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