Urban Design Best-Ever Quotes

by Dom Nozzi, AICP

The quotes found on this list represent what I believe are the most provocative, inspiring, essential words of wisdom on how to properly design a community for quality of life that I have ever come across. Many of these views are controversial or counter-intuitive, yet they all – in my opinion – express an important truth that communities would be wise to acknowledge.  As Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”

  • It’s not the beer cans I mind, it’s the roads. – Edward Abbey
  • Factors that are driving the popularity of large houses: “First, with less of a sense of community and public life in our culture, the home becomes a fortress which needs to contain everything we need, including multiple forms of entertainment, rather than basic shelter…” – designer-builder John Abrams of the South Mountain Company in West Tisbury, Mass.
  • A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams
  • …It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds. – Samuel Adams (1722-1803)
  • More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. – Woody Allen
  • …each additional hour spent in a car per day was associated with a 6% increase in the odds of being obese, while each additional kilometer walked per day was associated with a 4.8% reduction in the odds of being obese. – R.E.Andersen, 2003; U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996
  • A leader is one who influences. – Anonymous
  • As growth becomes denser, highway costs rise while transit costs decline. – Anonymous
  • A street is a spatial entity and not the residue between buildings. – Anonymous
  • Suburbia is a collection of private benefits and public nuisances. – Anonymous
  • He who tells the truth must have one foot in the stirrup. – Old Armenian proverb
  • The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. – Isaac Asimov
  • A leader is someone who cares enough to tell the people not merely what they want to hear, but what they need to know. – Reubin Askew
  • For any given criticism of new urbanism, there exists an equal and corresponding criticism that makes exactly the opposite point. – Laurence Aurbach
  • No urban area will prosper unless it attracts those who can choose to live wherever they wish. – Jonathon Barnett
  • If car ownership is mandatory, [the place is] not urban. – Donald Baxter
  • In the desire to be collaborative, don’t forget leadership. Don’t be embarrassed to lead. There are too many efforts where it’s all about ‘getting everyone to the table.’ Everyone goes away feeling good, but no one’s doing anything. – Frank H. Beal
  • Suburbanization is the biggest threat to cities in North America. -Paul Bedford, Toronto Planning Director
  • In a quality city, a person should be able to live their entire life without a car, and not feel deprived. – Paul Bedford
  • A good sustainability and quality of life indicator: The average amount of time spent in a car. – Paul Bedford
  • Office development…pollutes land, air, and water as surely as industrial development once did. Office buildings pollute by generating vehicle traffic. A downtown office building well served by transit pollutes far less than a suburban office building accessible only by car. – Steve Belmont
  • Neighborhood activism is a path to political power in American cities today, and city halls are filled with former activists more sympathetic to the social agenda than to the physical agenda. – Steve Belmont
  • On ineffective planners: They often tend to write trivial plans – lists of decisions that have already been taken. They defend their professional turf by inventing esoteric languages. They spend their energy in developing planning methodologies that are arcane and difficult to interpret. They often avoid complex choices, preferring to list alternatives and to provide large volumes of data without facing the need for choices…They invent names and functions for planning and often protect themselves by routinizing planning. Planning becomes bureaucratic, data are collected, analysis takes place routinely, and no one seems to have much to say about the usefulness of these planning efforts except those who carry them out…[T]hey overemphasize the professional sanctity of their craft. – G. Beneveniste
  • What gets us into trouble isn’t what we don’t know; its what we know for sure that just ain’t so. – Yogi Berra
  • Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded. – Yogi Berra
  • If they say it can’t be done, it doesn’t always work out that way. – Yogi Berra
  • All cars are getaway cars. – Ross Best
  • The most destructive force I continue to see is the grafting of suburban types – building-lot configurations, street types, landscaping, public works, open space – onto urban settings. This has fueled the destruction of the city as well as frustrated the construction of new urban places. – Chuck Bohl
  • It is the adaptable, not the well-adapted who survive. – Ken Boulding
  • Those who buy into the suburbs because they want to be close to nature are going to keep doing so.  The point of parks in cities is not to satisfy that urge, but to make better urbanism for those who want real urbanism. – David Brain
  • NIMBY reactionaries don’t stop change in the long run. They simply help to insure that it happens in the worst possible way. – David Brain
  • Urbanization has defused the population bomb.  — Stewart Brand
  • Americans are broad-minded people. They’ll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater, and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn’t drive there’s something wrong with him. – Art Buchwald
  • Automobiles need quantity and pedestrians need quality. – Dan Burden
  • We must not build housing, we must build communities. – Mike Burton
  • Cars are happiest when there are no other cars around. People are happiest when there are other people around. – Dan Burden
  • The suburbs became weird quiet bedroom communities where kids are bored out of their skulls. Their parents only sleep and shop there, so for them it doesn’t matter—until junior gets into drugs or massacres his classmates. – David Byrne
  • The world is being forced – not in 10 years but today – to choose between feeding people and feeding cars. – Ernest Callenbach
  • Freedom is not constituted primarily of privileges but of responsibilities – Albert Camus:
  • Anyplace worth its salt has a ‘parking problem’. – James Castle
  • If the city is not well-designed, its impact on the surrounding nature will be lethal. – Javier Cenicacelaya
  • Planning of the automobile city focuses on saving time. Planning for the accessible city, on the other hand, focuses on time well spent. – Robert Cervero
  • The food would have to be pretty horrible for this not to be a perfect lunch.  –Buff Chace sitting down in a Roman piazza
  • Bicyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Nothing more is expected. Nothing less is acceptable. – Chainguard.com
  • Convivial towns can offer solace in disaster, solidarity in protest, and a quiet everyday delight in urban life…Creating and revitalizing places that foster conviviality is essential to the good life. – Mark C. Childs
  • Vancouver killed the freeway because they didn’t want the freeways to kill their neighborhoods. The city flourished because making it easier to drive does not reduce traffic; it increases it. That means if you don’t waste billions of dollars building freeways, you actually end up with less traffic. – Rick Cole
  • When we build our landscape around places to go, we lose places to be. -Rick Cole
  • Increasingly, we live in a world where cities compete for people, and businesses follow. This trend has largely been ignored by many cities, which are still focused on business climate and tax incentives. But I think the big question businesses will ask in the years to come is going to be ‘Can I hire talented people in this city?’ Cities need to be able to answer ‘yes’ to succeed. – Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities.
  • We have a military policy instead of an energy policy. – Barry Commoner
  • Charrettes are what you do until sanity prevails again. – Patrick Condon
  • Density and environmental protection are not incompatible. If they are, we are in very deep trouble. – Patrick Condon
  • Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than knowledge. – Charles Darwin
  • It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin
  • Progress in every age results only from the fact that there are some men and women who refuse to believe that what they know to be right cannot be done. – Russel W. Davenport
  • New Urbanism = Universal Principles calibrated locally. – Bill Dennis
  • The greatest of all evils is a weak government. – Benjamin Disraeli
  • People yearning for community are like people at a party who crowd into the kitchen because they like it. – Bruce Donnelly
  • …if someone charges that the New Urbanism is about hating cars, we can say no, that it is only when convenient walking and convenient driving conflict that we place the pedestrian above the driver; where they do not conflict, there is no dilemma. – Bruce Donnelly
  • Parking is a narcotic and ought to be a controlled substance. It is addictive, and one can never have enough. – Victor Dover
  • To most Americans the cures for traffic congestion are worse than the congestion itself. – Anthony Downs
  • [Democracies] have great difficulty solving the long-run problems created by policies that provide short-term benefits. Once people receive the benefits, they do not want to give them up. – Anthony Downs
  • …American communities require that new housing meet quality requirements that are very high by world or even Western European and Japanese standards. These requirements are designed by middle-class architects, planners, and citizens in conformity with what they believe is decent housing. But their concept of decency far surpasses what is necessary for human health and safety. Consequently, all new American dwellings are too costly for low-income people to occupy without direct subsidies. But subsidies are provided for only a few of the many households with incomes low enough to be eligible for them. So poor people live in unsubsidized older dwellings. – Anthony Downs
  • In Houston, a person walking is someone on his way to his car. – Anthony Downs
  • While democracy does most things well, I think we need to confront the fact that it does not make the best cities. And that the cities that were great were rather top-down. You know–Paris and Rome, the grid of Manhattan. What would those have been like if there hadn’t been some top-down stuff? Every landowner would have done a separate little pod subdivision. That’s one of the things that’s naive about Americans–extremely naive, I find, as an outsider having lived in places that are possibly less democratic, like Spain. This idea that you have an individual right to do whatever you want with your land is very democratic, but the result is pretty questionable. Unfortunately, it’s hard to have a debate in this country about certain things. We talk about bottom-up planning. And by the way, I make my living doing this bottom-up planning. But if you unfilter what people want–they don’t want poor people, they don’t want income diversity, and they don’t want shops anywhere near them and they don’t want rapid transit and they don’t want streets that connect and they don’t want anybody bicycling past their yards and they don’t want density. So you can’t just do unfiltered bottom-up planning. We need to educate. – Andres Duany
  • Climate has little to do with [how much people walk]. Toronto residents, New Orleanians and Manhattanites, with extremes of weather, walk more than Atlantans. The variable is the quality of the urbanism. Not the weather. People in Stockholm walk more than people in the suburbs of Seville. People in Stockholm’s center walk more that they do in Stockholm’s 1950’s new towns. The variable is always the quality of the urbanism–not the weather. – Andres Duany
  • It is NOT the inaugural condition that is the determinant of a town that is decisive: it is the ability to molt that is important. – Andres Duany
  • The problem is not the profit motive–profit has always been the driver of building in this country–the issue is the pattern. So long as the pattern was the compact, walkable and diverse neighborhood, we could continue growing–and did so for 250 years. When the pattern changed after WWII, it became unsustainable. – Andres Duany
  • In [the traditional New England town], one can live above the store, next to the store, five minutes from the store or nowhere near the store, and it is easy to imagine the different age groups and personalities that would prefer each alternative. In this way and others, the traditional neighborhood provides for an array of lifestyles. In conventional suburbia, there is only one available lifestyle: to own a car and to need it for everything. – Andres Duany, “Suburban Nation”
  • This should be clear: open space should be within walking the pedestrian shed of every dwelling. The pedestrian shed is the measure of urbanism. – Andres Duany
  • We are not running out of land. We are running out of urban places. – Andres Duany
  • The Department of Transportation, in its single-minded pursuit of traffic flow, has destroyed more American towns than General Sherman. – Andres Duany
  • Anti-urban uses (large parking lots, large setbacks, drive-thru’s, wide and high-speed roads, etc.) are the new slaughterhouses – the places that people fight against having as neighbors. – Andres Duany
  • With infill, start by providing for those who are not risk-averse (singles, Bohemians, etc.). These people are the urban pioneers. – Andres Duany
  • The 5 Bs – bricks, banners, balloons, benches and berms – do NOT create streetlife. It is the available shopping that provides it. – Andres Duany
  • Think of the last time you chose to visit a great urban neighborhood, to eat or walk in the park or on the street. Now, how many times have you decided to go visit someone else’s conventional subdivision if you didn’t have to be there?  — Andres Duany
  • If a number of persons are not in some way angry at the planner, then no principles have been presented; the planner has been merely a secretary to the mob, and the plan will be weak to the point of being useless. -Andres Duany
  • The loss of a forest or a farm is justified only if it is replaced by a village. To replace them with a subdivision or a shopping center is not an even trade. – Andres Duany
  • Modern architects recognize 300 masterpieces but ignore the other 30 million buildings that have ruined the world. – Andres Duany
  • Amateurs accustomed to emulation made great places. It is the professionals of recent decades that have ruined our cities and our landscapes with their inventions. – Andres Duany
  • On the failure of planning as process: when the job seems too difficult, the tool is probably wrong. – Andres Duany
  • Higher density housing offers an inferior lifestyle only when it is without a community as its setting. – Andres Duany
  • In the suburbs you have backyard decks; in towns you have porches on the street. – Andres Duany
  • America’s public spaces are sized by the biggest fire engine the community can afford to buy. – Andres Duany
  • The street, which is the public realm of America, is now a barrier to community life. – Andres Duany
  • NIMBYs disguised as environmentalists. -Andres Duany
  • The role of the street is social as well as utilitarian. – Andres Duany
  • We have legislators who think it their duty only to listen to the people instead of becoming expert on the subjects which they must decide upon. – Andres Duany
  • There are components of modern life that are necessary but which intrinsically create bad street frontage: They are the parking lot, the drive-through, and the solid walls of certain businesses and institutions that can’t have windows. So there is a certain percentage of modern street frontage that will not deliver pedestrian quality. The only questions are: what percentage of your city must you give over to these uses and where do you locate them. – Andres Duany
  • What you need is a system of zoning based not on use, but on the quality of street frontage. Then develop your street grid with a rhythm of “A” streets and “B” streets. Designate those streets like your Walnut Street as “A” streets, where every building on these blocks must be high-grade, pedestrian-oriented and reinforce continuity – no parking lots, no curb cuts. Then assign all your anti-pedestrian frontages to your “B” streets, your service streets. There is absolutely nothing worse for a city than to make every street excellent. If you try to make every street excellent, every street will be mediocre. – Andres Duany
  • Anchorage is the most awful place. All people know is that nature is beautiful; and they do not give a thought to the city they inhabit. – Douglas Duany
  • The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation. – Albert Einstein
  • The problem is not the automobile. There are plenty of cars and traffic jams in European cities, but urban planning and design there does not simply revolve around making space for the car. In American downtowns, however, that has too often been the case. For years, downtowns have been decimated as buildings have been cleared and streets widened in an effort to get more cars into the city. Since most cars are driven only a few hours per week, storage is a big problem. Parking lots often take up more space than any other land use. – Larry Ford
  • Architects should favor the norm more often than the exception. – Sergio Frau
  • When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I am finished, it the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. – Buckminster Fuller
  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mohandas Gandhi
  • Successful City Planning: Public action that generates a desirable, widespread and sustained private market reaction. – Alexander Garvin
  • When there is a moment of grand unanimity, you can expect great foolishness. – Paul Giacobbi
  • …cities achieve much more than isolated humans. Cities enable collaboration, especially the joint production of knowledge that is mankind’s most important creation…because humans learn so much from other humans, we learn more when there are more people around us. Urban density creates a constant flow of new information that comes from observing others’ successes and failures…Cities make it easier to watch and listen and learn. Because the essential characteristic of humanity is our ability to learn from each other, cities make us more human.  – Edward Glaeser
  • Pundits…have long argued that improvements in information technology will make urban advantages obsolete…But a few decades of high technology can’t trump millions of years of evolution. Connecting in cyberspace will never be the same as sharing a meal or a smile or a kiss…The declining cost of connecting over long distances has only increased the returns to clustering close together.  – Edward Glaeser
  • If you design communities for automobiles, you get more automobiles. If you design them for people, you get walkable, livable communities. – Parris Glendening and Christine Todd Whitman
  • Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game. – Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Tradition is the tending of the fire, not the worship of the ashes. – Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Urbanism works when it creates a journey as desirable as the destination. – Paul Goldberger
  • When you sell conventional suburban development, you are selling privacy and exclusivity. With each new house you sell, you diminish that amenity.  However, if what you sell is the community of a traditional neighborhood, then every new house is an enhancement of that amenity.       – Vince Graham
  • If buildings are beautiful, higher density compounds that beauty. Conversely, if buildings are ugly, then higher density compounds that ugliness. – Vince Graham
  • Neighborhood lobbyists have far too much influence and this influence in the end almost always equals more sprawl. – Laura Hall
  • Mary Peters, the administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, recently testified before a committee of the U.S. Senate that “mobility is one of our greatest freedoms” and that “congestion must be addressed with a long-term strategy to increase capacity” (FHWA 2002d). In its 2001 Report to the Nation, the Federal Highway Administration declared that “our highway transportation system serves to unify America and sustain the American way of life” (FHWA 2001). Implicit in such statements is the belief that Americans have a right to drive and, more specifically, that Americans have the right to drive anywhere they want at any time of day they want at speeds unimpeded by congestion. Time and monetary losses resulting from congestion are officially measured relative to free flow conditions, thereby establishing free-flow conditions as the unquestioned standard. – Susan Handy
  • I’ve always described Density in terms of dollars: The more you have of it, the more you can “buy” with it — referring to amenities, of course (cultural, entertainment, dining, etc.). When I get asked what’s the single most important thing that can be added to a city to help revitalize it (they are always waiting for the latest retail or entertainment thing…), I always say “housing.” – Seth Harry
  • Big boxes are symptomatic of sprawl, not the fundamental producers of it. – Seth Harry
  • The “suburban conundrum”: As density goes down in a suburban setting, both arterial sizes and retail format sizes tend to go up, while the frequency of both go down, resulting in longer trips, to fewer boxes, of ever increasing scale.
    • Seth Harry
  • Adding lanes to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to solve obesity. – Glen Hemistra
  • Do for the future what you’re grateful the past did for you. (Or what you wish the past had done for you.) – Danny Hillis, the Golden Rule of Time
  • Setbacks, Height Limits, Open Space, Parking requirements (S.H.O.P.). The four stooges of zoning have effectively outlawed compact, affordable, walkable, mixed use (CAWMU) in the United States. – Fenno Hoffman
  • A hundred years after we are gone and forgotten, those who never heard of us will be living with the results of our actions. – Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know. – M.K. Hubbert
  • The “middle” density also has the problem of traffic: the more stuff gets built, the worse the traffic gets, because you still need to drive. At some point, there’s a flip, and the more stuff gets built, the less traffic is a problem, because the less you need to drive. That’s why the transition from low-density auto-oriented to high-density pedestrian-oriented is so painful. There’s a middle ground that doesn’t work for anybody. Lots of our urban suburbs now fit into that middle ground. The solution isn’t intuitive: when you tell people that the solution to the terrible traffic is to build even more stuff, it doesn’t make sense to most people at a gut level. – Jennifer Hurley
  • The only people, scientific or other, who never make mistakes are those who do nothing. – Thomas Huxley
  • Lowly, unpurposeful and random as they appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life must grow. – Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
  • Power corrupts, but so does weakness, and absolute weakness corrupts absolutely.”- Josef Joffe
  • Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. – Samuel Johnson
  • Architecture without sensibility to its context is like sex without love: entertaining perhaps, but not the source of lasting joy. – Mark Wilson Jones
  • The more parking space, the less sense of place. – Jane Holtz Kay
  • Any city planner who thinks that easing the traffic flow will decrease the city’s congestion is simply living in a dream world. Likewise, the addition of parking facilities will not, and never has, eliminated parking problems. When you improve a small congested road, you wind up with a big congested road. Likewise, the better the traffic pattern, the more traffic on that pattern; the more parking lots, the more people looking for a place to park. – John Keats
  • If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places. – Fred Kent
  • Whatever a traffic engineer tells you to do, do the opposite and you’ll improve your community. – Fred Kent
  • My interest is in the future, because I am going to spend the rest of my life there. – Charles Kettering
  • It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong. – John Maynard Keynes
  • Seductive congestion. It’s what the best cities are all about. – John King
  • It’s true that Germans have always had a special love affair with the car, but there’s no reason you have to remain trapped in a bad and unhealthy relationship. – Pit Klasen
  • Men do not love Rome because she is beautiful; Rome is beautiful because men have loved her. – Leopold Kohr.
  • The majority of sprawl in this country is produced by those who are fleeing from sprawl. -Alex Krieger
  • Containing this type of use of 50/50 [50 mph and 50,000 cars per day] streets is far beyond the will and ability of the typical local government. The 50/50 arterial is a gift-wrapped, gold-plated, gift to strip development. Once in place, almost no power on earth will stop its march toward strip commercial. Time spent berating local governments (counties and cities) for not doing better with these monstrosities (and I’ve done my share of this) is satisfying to the critic, but is unproductive. Once in place, it is too late to do much about the 50/50 arterial. – Walter Kulash
  • A road is a strip of ground over which one walks. A highway differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line which connects one point to another. A highway has no meaning in itself. Its meaning derives entirely from the two points which it connects. A road is attribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A highway is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been reduced to a mere obstacle to human movement and a waste of time. – Milan Kundera
  • It matters that our cities are primarily auto storage depots. It matters that our junior high schools look like insecticide factories. It matters that our libraries look like beverage distribution warehouses. It matters that the best hotel in town looks like a minimum security prison. To live and work and walk among such surroundings is a form of spiritual degradation. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when so much of what you see on a typical day is so unrelentingly drab. – Jim Kunstler
  • …there’s a reason that Elm Street and Main Street resonate in our cultural memory. It’s not because we’re sentimental saps. It’s because this pattern of human ecology produced places that worked wonderfully well, and which people deeply loved. – Jim Kunstler
  • We are never going to save the rural places or the agricultural places or the wild and scenic places (or the wild species that dwell there) unless we identify the human habitat and then strive to make it so good that humans will voluntarily inhabit it. – Jim Kunstler
  • What’s bad about sprawl is not its uniformity, but that it is so uniformly bad. – Jim Kunstler
  • The 20th Century was about getting around. The 21st Century will be about staying in a place worth staying in. – Jim Kunstler
  • It actually took more effort, and a deeper background in principle and technique, on the part of the 19th century architect to contrive proportioning schemes that would nourish the heart and soul of a normal human being. Today it is the common citizen, forced to live among the baleful monstrosities of 20th century architecture, who must expend extreme mental effort to keep from shrieking in agony at every turn. – Jim Kunstler
  • Finding ways to intervene positively rather than destructively in the old city is a lot of what pro-urbanist planning–new or old–is all about. — Nathan Landau
  • Density is necessary but not sufficient for walkable, transit-friendly urban(e) communities…without adequate baseline densities, communities can wind up building a lot of sidewalks that hardly anybody walks on. – Nathan Landau
  • As we all know, architecture and urbanism, unlike other specialties, such as surgery and biology, are susceptible to being valued, criticized and even vetoed by persons without the most minimal knowledge of their most elemental principles.” – Mario Lanza (Havana 2003)
  • I have never seen a fact that would stand up to a myth at a public hearing. – J. Gary Lawrence
  • …the state of Detroit today (1/3 of the city’s land is vacant, decrease in population by 1/2, etc.) is exactly what the automobile industry intended to have happen to formerly pedestrian-oriented cities.  Detroit probably has more freeway miles than most U.S. cities, and it sure hasn’t benefited Detroit.  (Reflecting upon this is the source of my challenge to freeway proponents — name one freeway construction project that has benefited the traditional center city more than the suburbs, or benefited the city at all.  The reality is that freeways are for suburbanites.) – Richard Layman
  • The car is like our mother-in-law. We have a good relationship with her, but we cannot let her conduct our lives. In other words, if the only woman in your life is your mother-in-law, then you have a problem. – former Curitiba, Brazil mayor Jaime Lerner
  • When you’re making a housing decision, you’re also making a decision on transportation. – Barbara Lipman
  • You say what you think needs to be said. If it needs to be said, there are going to be a lot of people who will disagree with it, or it wouldn’t need to be said. – Herb Lock
  • …in general we call these sorts of claims [about why a road cannot be narrowed], by conventional thinkers (usually conventional, old-school, traffic engineers), “technical brush-offs.” The idea is that, through the misuse of their position, they simply blow off your legitimate design proposal with a technical brush-off. You are supposed to go away and not come back. The benefit to them is that they waste very little time on you and your proposal. However, you research the technical brush-off, find out that it is baloney, come back, and confront them. They then will say, “Oh, good job, you’re right. However, your idea won’t work because ….. and they will give you another technical brush-off. This pattern can continue until either you give up or it is too late. Plus, a lot of damage can be done in the meantime by stirring up the neighbors, the fire chief, and/or the police. You have been given two technical brush-offs so far…The next brush-offs will likely have to do with the classification of the street and that they can’t do what you propose. It might also be that they cannot use certain types of funding to reduce car-carrying capacity. By the time you get right down to the real issue, it will likely be that they simply do not want to do the road diet. It violates their paradigm. In these situations, you’ll have to decide, at some point, if you will be able to convince the traffic dinosaurs of the overall benefits to society of you proposal. – Ian Lockwood
  • Youth is not a period of life, it is a condition of the spirit, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, an intensity of emotion, a victory of courage over timidity, a taste for adventure over comfort. One becomes old when one abandons one’s ideals. – Douglas Mac Arthur 1945
  • LEED architecture without good urban design is like cutting down the rainforest using hybrid-powered bulldozers. – Dan Malouff
  • Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for mankind – Horace Mann
  • [American] Planners fight against good urbanism every day of the week, and have for fifty years. – John Massengale
  • Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. – Matthew 7:13-14
  • One of the interesting features of much of [the recent research regarding walking] is that taken as a whole it shows that mixed use and walkable destinations have a bigger impact on walking than the quality of the pedestrian environment itself.  Beautiful sidewalks with nowhere to go don’t really cut it. – Barbara McCann
  • Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how. – Edward T. McMahon
  • Any town that doesn’t have sidewalks doesn’t love its children. – Margaret Mead
  • For every complex and difficult problem, there is an answer that is simple, easy, and wrong. – H.L. Mencken
  • …Rather than design a transportation system to get the most out of America’s cities, America redesigned the cities to get the most out of the automobile. – Richard Moe
  • The most important task of the urbanist is controlling size. – David Mohney
  • When the revolution starts, there should be no question of where to go. – Charles Moore
  • Isn’t it paradoxical that the old factories are now the place of efficient and desirable urban living, while the suburban escape from them have become consumptive, environmentally unsustainable, noxious places. – Michael Morrissey
  • The most serious obstacles in our road building program are not money, nor engineering problems, nor cruel terrain-but PEOPLE. – James J. Morton
  • The car is not the enemy, nor is the elimination of cars the solution. It is our societal bias toward cars that must be questioned. – Anne Vernez Moudon
  • To allow for future street widening, traffic engineers promoted the big front setback and tried to eliminate the sidewalk. – Anne Vernez Moudon
  • Sustainability: to “keep things going in a healthy way long into an uncertain future.” – Steve Mouzon
  • The vernacular process is based on things that resonates enough with the average citizen that they want to repeat it on their house or in their town. Repeated enough over time, it becomes a pattern, and then a tradition. The Most-Loved Places are therefore all by definition traditional places. – Steve Mouzon
  • A historicist is a person who generally believes that old things are always better than new things.  A modernist is a person who generally believes that new things are always better than old things.  A  neo-traditionalist is a person who generally chooses whatever works best in the long run.   – Steve Mouzon & Andres Duany
  • Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf. – Lewis Mumford
  • Trend is not destiny. – Lewis Mumford
  • Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends. — Lewis Mumford
  • Democracy, in any active sense, begins and ends in communities small enough for their members to meet face to face. – Lewis Mumford
  • The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle, is actually the right to destroy the city. – Lewis Mumford
  • We cannot continue to believe that the landscape is sacred and the city profane. They must both be considered sacred. – Paul Murrain
  • What kills a city are people who want only low taxes, only want a good deal and only want cities to be about . . . pipes, pavement and policing. – Glen Murray, mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • We are making great progress, but we are going in the wrong direction. – Ogden Nash
  • Each on-street parking spot that is lost costs an adjacent business about $10,000 a year in sales. – National Main Street Program
  • The land use and urban form of cities are…fundamentally shaped by priorities in transportation…the essential character of a city’s land use comes down to how it manages its transport. -Peter Newman & Jeffrey Kenworthy
  • All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. – Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Infill development is publicly cheap but privately expensive, while sprawl is publicly expensive but privately cheap. – James Nicholas
  • Cities are for people. A city is where people come to work and raise their families and to spend their money and to walk in the evening. It is not a traffic corridor. -John Norquist
  • There is no greater form of subsidized social engineering than the interstate highway, which hastens the flight out of the city without doing much to ease traffic congestion. -John Norquist
  • This used to be Main Street USA. It’s now a code violation all over America. – John Norquist
  • The whole point of [new urbanism] is to craft a public realm that is so good that the private realm can be substantially reduced in size without a compromise of lifestyle.  – Nathan Norris
  • Benefits [of a home in a new urbanist neighborhood] should be framed in the same manner as other products are sold in our culture (by emphasizing aspects such as value, convenience, choice, safety, healthy living, or beauty). – Nathan Norris
  • Suburban planning is all about separation and segregation of uses. Buffers, enormous setbacks, masking. And the high speeds necessitated by such design. Urban planning, by stark contrast, strives for mixed and shared use, permeability, modest speeds and compact dimensions. – Dom Nozzi
  • Smart Growth defined: Making the car an option, not a necessity. – Dom Nozzi
  • Places don’t become strip commercial because all the trees were cut down. They become strip commercial because the place has been scaled for cars. The road is too wide. The parking lot is too big. The building setbacks are too large. Ironically, saving a tree often promotes such an over-allocation of space. – Dom Nozzi
  • With modest roads, Big Box retail is impossible. With large roads, Big Box retail is inevitable. – Dom Nozzi
  • This nation is drowning in a sea of free and abundant parking. – Dom Nozzi
  • The pedestrian is the design imperative. – Dom Nozzi
  • If you are an elected official lacking in courage and leadership, and you face even a peep of opposition to a project, fall back on perfectionism to find a flaws so that you can shoot down the project. Perfectionism leads to paralysis. – Dom Nozzi
  • NIMBYs on steriods. -Dom Nozzi
  • In part, public planning agencies have no vision because they are drowning in minutiae. – Dom Nozzi
  • We need to design our cities so that one feels embarrassed, inconvenienced, and like one who is missing out on all the fun when driving a car. – Dom Nozzi
  • In 1999, Gainesville had a population of approximately 100,000. That same year, San Francisco had a population of approximately 777,000. The Paris inner area had a population of approximately 2.1 million. The eye-opener is that Gainesville’s land area, at just over 50 square miles, is larger than both San Francisco (46.7 sq mi) and Inner Area Paris (41 sq mi). – Dom Nozzi & Michael Hoge
  • Working adults formerly enjoyed an hour of “community time” after the workday was over and before they were expected home. It has been replaced by an hour of “commuting time.” The former warmed us to our fellow human beings, the latter conditions us to hate them. – Ray Oldenburg, Celebrating the Third Place
  • A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. – George S. Patton
  • Anything you do to make a city more friendly to cars makes it less friendly to people. – Enrique Penalosa
  • Over the last 30 years, we’ve been able to magnify environmental consciousness all over the world. As a result, we know a lot about the ideal environment for a happy whale or a happy mountain gorilla. We’re far less clear about what constitutes an ideal environment for a happy human being. One common measure for how clean a mountain stream is, is to look for trout. If you find the trout, the habitat is healthy. It’s the same way with children in a city. Children are a kind of indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people. – Enrique Penalosa
  • God made us walking animals—pedestrians. As a fish needs to swim, a bird to fly, a deer to run, we need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy. – Enrique Penalosa
  • Economics, urban planning, ecology are only the means. Happiness is the goal. – Enrique Penalosa
  • The least a democratic society should do is offer people wonderful public spaces. Public spaces are not a frivolity. They are just as important as hospitals and schools. They create a sense of belonging. This creates a different type of society – a society where people of all income levels meet in public space is a more integrated, socially healthier one. – Enrique Penalosa
  • We can have a city that is very friendly to cars or we can have a city that is very friendly to people.  We cannot have both. – Enrique Penalosa
  • A premise of the new city is that we want a society to be as egalitarian as possible. For this purpose, quality-of-life distribution is more important than income distribution. [And quality of life includes] a living environment as free of motor vehicles as possible. – Enrique Penalosa
  • Americans are in the habit of never walking if they can ride. – Louis Philippe (1798)
  • American families own such a surfeit of consumer goods that they have turned self-storage into a $17 billion a year industry. – Daniel Pink (June 2005)
  • Some collective practices have enormous inertia because they impose a high cost on the individual who would try to change them. – Steven Pinker
  • When you’re on the street [as a pedestrian], all cars are monsters. When you’re in a car, all pedestrians are idiots. – Alan E. Pisarski
  • The desire for community is a constant of human nature. – Stephen Price
  • Nothing looks so dated as yesterday’s vision of the future. – Christian De Quincey
  • Well planned cities can compensate for declining incomes by decreasing the cost of living. – Henry Richmond
  • To achieve excellence should be a struggle. – Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley
  • We live in a country made of spare parts where the master plan has been lost. – Jaquelyn Robertson
  • Every freedom has a corresponding responsibility. – John D. Rockefeller
  • Over-emphasis on mobility is what’s destroying our cities now, and “improved” mobility could make things worse. So maybe my views on transportation have become extreme if you consider that I’m becoming an advocate for LESS mobility, and more place-making. Famous urbanist Jan Gehl says “Judge the walkability of a city not by how many people are walking, but by how many people are lingering.” The places people love are actually quite hard to get around in, and the places with great mobility are usually dead and sterile places. – Michael Ronkin
  • Taking space away from cars – by reducing car parking and shrinking roads – is more important than providing bikeways, sidewalks or transit facilities, if we expect more peoples to walk, bike and use transit. Taking away car space slows traffic, reduces pedestrian crossing distances, and creates a more pleasant, human-scaled environment that is conducive and welcoming to pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. – Michael Ronkin
  • We need do adapt trucks to the city, not adapt cities to trucks. — Michael Ronkin
  • Advocates for walking and bicycling should put more time and energy into opposing [car] parking and road widening than supporting pedestrian and bicycle facilities; the harm done by the former cannot be mitigated by the latter. – Michael Ronkin
  • The unspoken secret in traffic operations: the vast majority of striping, signing and signalization are intended to ease traffic flow, not increase safety.  – Michael Ronkin
  • All urban streets should be a challenge to drive and easy to walk or bike.  – Michael Ronkin
  • There is no lack of space [in cities]. It is just that most of it is in the form of vacant parking lots and extra wide roads. -Michael Ronkin
  • From time to time, little men will find fault with what you have done…but they will go down the stream like bubbles, they will vanish. But the work you have done will remain for the ages. – Theodore Roosevelt
  • The measure of any great civilization is in its cities, and the measure of a city’s greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares.  – John Ruskin
  • The only way you run into someone else in LA is in a car crash. – Susan Sarandon, on why she moved to NY.
  • When a new truth enters the world, the first stage of reaction to it is ridicule, the second stage is violent opposition, and in the third stage, that truth comes to be regarded as self-evident – Arthur Schopenhauer
  • A culture of inertia has set in. Criticism predominates over construction; critics are given more weight than those trying to build. It doesn’t matter how small a constituency or flawed an argument the critic possesses. He or she always seems to predominate in political circles, in the news media, and in the public debate. – Senator Charles E. Schumer
  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. – Albert Schweitzer
  • Although the American scarcely thought of his car as an instrument for reshaping the city, it was to prove the most potent means of crippling Central Business Districts and upbuilding outlying shopping areas that had ever been invented. It was the most effective device for spreading the city over a vast territory that history had ever seen. Its potential for destruction and for construction was, in short, awesome. – Mel Scott
  • Off-street parking requirements [imposed by a city for new developments] and cars…present a symbiotic relationship: the requirements lead to free parking, the free parking leads to more cars and more cars then lead to even higher parking requirements. When 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet [of new building] no longer satisfy the peak demand for free parking, a stronger dose of 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet can alleviate the problem, but not for long because cars increase in numbers to fill the new parking spaces. Every jab of the parking needle relieves the local symptoms, but ultimately worsens the real disease — too much land and capital devoted to parking and cars. Parking requirements are good for motorists in the short run but bad for cities in the long run. – Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking
  • For a concert hall, Los Angeles requires, at a minimum, 50 times more parking spaces than San Francisco allows as the maximum. This difference in planning helps explain why downtown San Francisco is much more exciting and livable than downtown Los Angeles. – Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking
  • American cities put a floor under the parking supply to satisfy the peak demand for free parking, and then cap development density to limit vehicle trips. European cities, in contrast, often cap the number of parking spaces to avoid congesting the roads and combine this strategy with a floor on allowed development density to encourage walking, cycling, and public transport. That is, Americans require parking and limit density, while Europeans require density and limit parking. When combined with complaints about traffic congestion and calls for smart growth, the American policy looks exceptionally foolish. – Donald Shoup, The High Cost of Free Parking
  • Minimum parking standards are fertility drugs for cars. – Donald Shoup
  • Staunch conservatives often become ardent communists when it comes to parking, and rational people quickly turn emotional. – Donald Shoup
  • If we continue to do what we’ve always done with curb parking, we will continue to get what we now have — the “parking problem,” with all its ramifications. Fortunately, we can resolve this problem if we: (1) charge market prices for curb parking; (2) return the revenue to finance neighborhood public improvements; and (3) remove off-street parking requirements. No other source of public revenue can so easily bring in so much money and simultaneously improve transportation, land use, and the environment. – Donald Shoup
  • If the earth was an apartment, we wouldn’t be getting our security deposit back. – Jim Shubert
  • A suburban through street is similar to a New Urbanist through street in the same way that a concrete flood channel is similar to a babbling brook. – Patrick Siegman
  • Preserving natural habitat by creating better human habitat. – Smart Growth America’s web site
  • People move to the suburbs for the illusion of greater freedom, but it is where there is density – more people & more kinds of people, more buildings & more kinds of buildings – that there are more choices. – Sandy Sorlien
  • The house itself is of minor importance. Its relation to the community is the thing that really counts. A small house must depend on its grouping with other houses for its beauty… – Clarence Stein
  • The opposite to bad development is good development, not no development. – Padriac Steinschneider
  • The great thing about urbanism…is that the more you build, generally the better. The opposite is true of sprawl. – Robert Steuteville
  • There are three rules of urban design [for the establishment and preservation of walkable commercial areas]. Build [buildings] to the sidewalk (i.e., property line), make the front of the building ‘permeable’ (i.e., no blank walls), and prohibit parking lots in front of the building. – David Sucher, City Comforts (2003)
  • Environmentalists should make good urbanists, since they understand systems, diversity, connectivity and interdependence. – Caryl Terrell
  • Environmentalists fail to understand that human beings are a life form. – Dhiru Thadani
  • Consensus is the absence of leadership. – Margaret Thatcher
  • It is not enough to be busy. The question is: What are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau
  • One day we’ll be able to go 700 miles an hour, then we’ll want to go seven again. – Twain
  • The paradox of transportation in the late 20th Century is that while it became possible to travel to the moon, it also became impossible, in many cases, to walk across the street. – Joell Vanderwagen
  • 50 years ago, city planning practices and codes moved from being community unifiers to suburban dividers. – Tom Walsh
  • For the first time in human history, people are systematically building meaningless places. – E.V. Walter
  • Generica: Fast food joints, strip malls, and subdivisions, as in “we were so lost in Generica, I didn’t know what city it was.” – Steve Weigand
  • It is difficult to design a place that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished. – William H. Whyte
  • When did the poor acquire the right to permanently dominate the life of the inner city? – Lloyd Zuckerberg as amended by Larry Felton Johnson
  • Placing surface parking lots in your downtowns is like placing a toilet in your living room – Unknown
  • A community has to have the capacity to envision a future they want, and not just the one they are likely to get. – Unknown
  • The suburb fails to be a countryside because it is too dense. It fails to be a city because it is not dense enough. – Unknown
  • Americans are not really at home in any place; neither at home nor at work, nor at the club or shopping mall. They are truly at home only when they are moving from one place to another. — Unknown
  • We don’t want slow growth. We want slow land consumption. – Unknown
  • When you have too much of something, you tax it. When you have too little of something, you subsidize it. – Unknown

___________________________________________

I urge you to email me (dom@walkablestreets.com) or leave a comment if you have a suggested addition or subtraction from this list. Or if you have any other thoughts about this list.

About

Each list in this blog contains my own personal opinions based on my personal experiences. I acknowledge that there may be a need to add or subtract from these lists (or to create a new subject list), and I welcome such suggestions. The lists are not ordered from higher to lower quality. Each list is a work in progress.

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here:

Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607 Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

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Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

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About Dom Nozzi

Urban designer, Complete Streets instructor, smart growth specialist, town planner, walkable & bikeable streets & trails specialist, writer, editor, speaker, world adventurer, skier, kayaker, SCUBA diver, bicyclist, hiker, dancer, book reader, urbanist. Make my own beer, wine, pasta, bread. Live by the motto that it is the things we do NOT do that we later regret. Life is too short to not live it to the fullest.
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One Response to Urban Design Best-Ever Quotes

  1. Pingback: Urban Sleep With The Fishes List - FISHING WORLD – FISHING WORLD

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