22 February 2019

Going Dutch In Colorado

You all have heard of NIMBY--Not In My Backyard.  It's how people react when their city wants to build a waste treatment plant, homeless shelter or anything else that brings people or things darker and dirtier than they are (on the outside, anyway) to their neighborhoods.

Me, I'd say NIMBY to big parking lots, high-speed roads and expansive lawns.  Then again, I've never owned a car (or house) or even had a driver's license.  

It seems that Pete Adeney shares my sentiments.  Known to readers of his blog as "Mr. Money Mustache", he is the guru of the Financial Independence, Retire Early" movement he proselytizes on his blog.  Its acronym, FIRE, also just happens to be the acronym for the industries--Finance, Insurance and Real Estate--that are the engines of the sorts of cities that are the antithesis of the one he wants to create. 

Now, he admits that he and his wife lucked out by finding tech-sector jobs that paid them extremely well. One of his tips, however, is to plunge yourself into DIY (He even built his own house.) and put even small change into investments. But the best thing anyone can do to stop up "the exploding volcano of wastefulness,"  he says, is to drive less.  He cites Ivan Ilitch, author of Energy and Equity, who in 1974 calculated that the average American male devotes more than 1600 hours a year to his car, whether on the road or gathering resources for his machine.  Or, you can look at it this way:  In 2017, the average amount borrowed for a new car was $31,099, which translates into a $515 monthly payment. (Those figures were $21,375 and $398, respectively, for a used car.)

A conception of Cyclocroft.

This knowledge informs his idea for a planned community, provisionally called Cyclocroft, between the cities of Longmont and Boulder in Colorado.  He's teaming up with B4place, an urban-planning consultancy based in the Netherlands, to try to bring the project into being.

Their proposed community would encompass approximately one square mile and be home to 50,000 people.  It would be a "compact" place, he says, where cyclists and pedestrians rule the roost, as in some Dutch cities, and automobiles wouldn't be allowed.  Nor would malls:  Instead, the small stores, like the parks and other public places, would be close to people's homes.

His choice of site, he says, will make the project possible because other "sustainable" projects" like the Google-funded "smart city" planned for Toronto's Quayside, "aren't creating any magic."  It, and other projects like it, are being built in cities that have sky-high costs because they "already destroyed by cars," he claims.  So the benefits of a pedestrian mall and bike lane accrue only to those who can afford to move to those places, and are lost the moment one ventures into the rest of the city.

Although Adeney is optimistic about his idea's chances of becoming reality, B4place's managers realize there are obstacles, such as NIMBYism and "the entrenched" who are "unchallenged and lawyered up," says B4place's Tara Ross, an American.  But, she says, even if it isn't built, it's a sign of eco-friendly urban developments to come because current development practices are neither environmentally nor economically sustainable.

1 comment:

  1. Countless generations of communities built round easy access local services has been destroyed in barely a generation. In the UK even twenty years ago people were wary of being reliant on cars to get them to work, now new housing is often vast tracts of identikit soulless boxes far from anywhere and two cars parked outside. Not only have they destroyed all city centre shopping and small village shops to replace them with windswept edge of town car parks and huge tin shacks. Since the roads have hardly changed in two generations there are knots of gridlock at all hours of the day, made even worse with ever more traffic lights...

    Progress hey?