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Halloween Traditions and New Urbanism

Town Creek SidewalkHalloween is one night of the year when our kids inhabit the streets of our communities. Traditionally in pursuit of candy, our youth have the opportunity to wander en masse, priding themselves on both their deliberately planned costumes as well as the contents of their goody bags. Often unattended by the watchful eyes of parents and babysitters, this is one night that our children experience the quality of our neighborhoods.

Therefore, Halloween is also an ideal time to consider the integrity and design of our neighborhoods. Is motor vehicle traffic slow enough to allow our kids to roam free at night? Are the streets well-lit? Are the front doors and porches inviting and appealing? Do our neighbors share an invested interest in community with one another?

These questions also reflect the basic tenants of New Urbanism. A few of the foundational concepts behind this approach to urban design include,

  • Walkability - Pedestrian-friendly street design includes an emphasis on curved roads, limited straightaways and wide sidewalks, all of which encourage drivers to slow down while providing ample space for foot traffic. 
  • Rear-Facing Garages & Parking Lots - Porches, gardens and front yard layouts are not only more aesthetically pleasing; they also encourage more social behavior amongst community members. By keeping garages and parking lots behind buildings, front-doors are also more accessibly to pedestrians.
  • Strengthened Community - When residing in mixed-use, diverse developments, neighbors have the ability to interact and socialize to a greater degree, which in turn creates a stronger, safer environment for all.

As if that wasn't enough reason to appreciate New Urbanist design principles during the Halloween season, one architect and urban planner also believes that New Urbanist neighborhoods will also lead to more candy while trick-or-treating:

Traditional neighborhood design promotes a number of positive attributes for a higher quality of life including physical health, economic and social opportunities, and more candy. That’s right, traditional neighborhood design is also better for trick-or-treating. For those looking to score big on Halloween night, you may want to by-pass the suburbs and head straight for your nearest new urbanist communities.

Candy lovers know that all you need is a costume and a bucket to satisfy your sweet tooth, but in order to maximize a Halloween outing one must focus on the numbers including route efficiency, candy distributors per block (typically dwelling units), and “candy density” (candy pieces per acre). These metrics will not only save you energy, they will also help maximize your time. As any ghoul or goblin knows, time is candy.

Navigating neighborhoods in the dark can be challenging. Even the Harry Potters on October 31 would find it difficult to work their way through a neighborhood of cul-de-sacs, having to double-back more often than a rousing quidditch match. As an alternative, gridded streets allow for maximum route efficiency by maximizing route options. Cowboys and Princesses alike can easily navigate an orthogonal grid and hit every front porch with a light on at a very high speed. In the suburban model, gated subdivisions and long driveways leading to a stoop increase the length of travel and thus increase the time spent per house. Therefore, what kids really want is a nominal front setback and straight in-and-out leadwalk to the front porch so they can get to the next house quickly but still have time for a “thank you.” Thus, the most efficient routes for trick-or-treating are found in the gridded and interconnected streets of traditional neighborhoods.

The number of houses or “targets” is greatly increased in an urban setting as well. While Power Rangers can only hit single-family homes in suburban areas, traditional neighborhoods feature easily accessible duplexes, townhouses and multifamily dwellings, too! These higher density products equate to exponential opportunity for a huge candy-grab in a short walk. If the suburban model has one family on an 80 foot wide lot and an urban model can produce 10 units or more on that same lot, the number of potential Milky Ways increases ten-fold for the same energy expenditure! Wookies everywhere rejoice! (Paullnight.com)

To read the rest of Paul L. Knight's highly entertaining article, click here. Happy Halloween, folks! 

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