Saturday, 23 July 2011

Town Planning

I woke up yesterday morning trying to recall something that George Orwell said about town planning. I think it was from an essay he wrote called The lion and the unicorn. I'll look it up.

My initial search was, 'quotes orwell town planning'. That brought up three websites:,, and None of these listed the Orwell quote.

Anyway, I was reading through the above-mentioned websites when it occurred to me that I was yet to read the quote that was actually in favour of the motor car within the built-up environment, so I thought to try and find one.

My first search was, 'quotes motor car city'. This provided me with a long list of insurance companies. Humpf. I was looking for a different type of quote. After another dead-end I tried, 'quotes favour motor car town planning'. This brought up, amongst other things, a Wikipedia article on a report entitled Traffic in Towns:

'Traffic in Towns was an influential report and popular book on urban and transport planning policy produced in 1963 for the UK Department of Transport by a team headed by the architect, civil engineer and planner Professor Sir Colin Buchanan. The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it:

'"It is impossible to spend any time on the study of the future of traffic in towns without at once being appalled by the magnitude of the emergency that is coming upon us. We are nourishing at immense cost a monster of great potential destructiveness, and yet we love him dearly. To refuse to accept the challenge it presents would be an act of defeatism."

'It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.

'These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book.'
You can read the article in full here.

Now, my challenge to the pro-car lobby - to the fossil fuel companies and the car manufacturers and so on - is to find the quote that I was looking for. Find me the quote that has a good word to say about the motor car in towns and cities.

As far as I can tell, the problem seems to be that promoting alternatives to the motor car would cause 'huge economic damage.' That's all anybody seems to know about it, or needs to know, by the looks.

Typically, of course, the politics of fear triumph over the politics of hope. I have heard - and not for the first time, either - that it was about time we started to admit there is more to life than money. As David Cameron said about this, "Wellbeing can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships. Improving our society's sense of wellbeing is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times."

I agree, but not everybody does, it seems. Perhaps they could tell us why. Maybe one day they will, I don't know. Until then, here is an assortment of quotes from the three websites I mentioned at the top:

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now. - Alan Lakein

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. - Immanuel Kant

It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all. - Henri Poincaré

Always have a plan, and believe in it. Nothing happens by accident. - Chuck Knox

Whatever a traffic engineer tells you to do, do the opposite and you'll improve your community. - Fred Kent

Good judgment is the result of experience. And experience is frequently the result of bad judgment. - Robert Lovett

Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power. - Hugh White

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. - Gloria Steinem

It's a bad plan that admits of no modification. - Publilius Syrus

Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. - Alexander Hamilton

A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there. - H. Stanely Judd

Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans. - Peter F. Drucker

The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem. - Milton Friedman

To undermanage reality is not to keep free. It is simply to let some force other than reason shape reality. - Robert S. McNamara

Good plans shape good decisions. That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true. - Lester Robert Bittel

"Would you tell me which way I ought to go from here?" asked Alice.
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get," said the Cat.
"I really don't care where," replied Alice.
"Then it doesn't much matter which way you go," said the Cat.
- Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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

Spot the ball

We cannot continue to believe that the landscape is sacred and the city profane. They must both be considered sacred. - Paul Murrain

To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream. Not only plan but also believe. -- Anatole France

We have legislators who think it their duty only to listen to the people instead of becoming expert on the subjects upon which they must decide. - Andres Duany

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. - Seneca

It is not enough to be busy. The question is: What are we busy about? - Henry David Thoreau

It is never too late to be what you might have been. - George Eliot

A leader is one who influences. - Anonymous

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. - Robert Louis Stevenson

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

In the space of two days I had evolved two plans, wholly distinct, both of which were equally feasible. The point I am trying to bring out is that one does not plan and then try to make circumstances fit those plans. One tries to make plans fit the circumstances. - General George Patton

In part, public planning agencies have no vision because they are drowning in minutiae. - Dom Nozzi

I have never seen a fact that would stand up to a myth at a public hearing. - J. Gary Lawrence

Nothing is ever done until everyone is convinced that it ought to be done, and has been convinced for so long that it is now time to do something else. - F.M. Cornford

To most Americans the cures for traffic congestion are worse than the congestion itself. – Anthony Downs

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. - Herbert Block

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

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 the flaws so that you can shoot down the project. Perfectionism leads to paralysis. - Dom Nozzi

In our profession, a plan that everyone dislikes for different reasons is a success. A plan everyone dislikes for the same reason is a failure. And a plan that everyone likes for the same reason is an act of God. - Richard Carson

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

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

We do make a difference - one way or the other. We are responsible for the impact of our lives. Whatever we do with whatever we have, we leave behind us a legacy for those who follow. - Stephen Covey

[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

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

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

Planners fight against good urbanism every day of the week, and have for fifty years. - John Massengale

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

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

The only way you run into someone else in LA is in a car crash. - Susan Sarandon, on why she moved to NY.

Anything you do to make a city more friendly to cars makes it less friendly to people. - Enrique Penalosa

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. - Jaime Lerner, former Mayor of Curitiba (Brazil)

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

Adding lanes to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to solve obesity. - Glen Heimistra

Vancouver killed the freeway because they didn't want the freeways to kill their neighbourhoods. The city flourished because making it easier to drive does not reduce traffic; it increases it. - Rick Cole

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

Automobiles need quantity and pedestrians need quality. - Dan Burden

The role of the street is social as well as utilitarian. - Andres Duany

A street is a spatial entity and not the residue between buildings. - Anonymous

In a quality city, a person should be able to live their entire life without a car, and not feel deprived. - Paul Bedford

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

The unspoken secret in traffic operations: the vast majority of striping, signing and signalisation 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

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 centre 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

The more parking space, the less sense of place. - Jane Holtz Kay

It's not the plan that's important, it's the planning. - Dr. Gramme Edwards

Plans are worthless. Planning is essential. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Cars are happiest when there are no other cars around. People are happiest when there are other people around. - Dan Burden

...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

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. - Thomas Edison

Parking is a narcotic and ought to be a controlled substance. It is addictive, and one can never have enough. - Victor Dover

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

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

When we build our landscape around places to go, we lose places to be. -Rick Cole

Density and environmental protection are not incompatible. If they are, we are in very deep trouble. - Patrick Condon

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

Urbanism works when it creates a journey as desirable as the destination. - Paul Goldberger

"Smart Growth" is a code word for whatever the user of this term wants to achieve concerning metropolitan development. Yet different users of the term have totally different goals, so "smart growth" can mean almost anything. In spite of its diverse and often conflicting meanings, all parties superficially endorse "smart growth" because it is clearly superior to the alternative: "dumb growth." - Anthony Downs

"Smart Growth" defined: Making the car an option, not a necessity. – Dom Nozzi

We are making great progress, but we are going in the wrong direction. - Ogden Nash

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. - Charles Darwin

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

Freedom is not constituted primarily of privileges but of responsibilities. - Albert Camus

Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game. - Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

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

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome. - Samuel Johnson

It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong. - John Maynard Keynes

Men do not love Rome because she is beautiful; Rome is beautiful because men have loved her. - Leopold Kohr

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

He who tells the truth must have one foot in the stirrup. - Old Armenian proverb

Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know. - M.K. Hubbert

If you can dream it, you can do it. - Walt Disney

We know what we are, but know not what we may be. - William Shakepeare

And this is the quote (in full) from Orwell:

'National characteristics are not easy to pin down, and when pinned down they often turn out to be trivialities or seem to have no connexion with one another. Spaniards are cruel to animals, Italians can do nothing without making a deafening noise, the Chinese are addicted to gambling. Obviously such things don't matter in themselves. Nevertheless, nothing is causeless, and even the fact that Englishmen have bad teeth can tell something about the realities of English life.

'Here are a couple of generalisations about England that would be accepted by almost all observers. One is that the English are not gifted artistically. They are not as musical as the Germans or Italians, painting and sculpture have never flourished in England as they have in France. Another is that, as Europeans go, the English are not intellectual. They have a horror of abstract thought, they feel no need for any philosophy or systematic ‘world-view’. Nor is this because they are ‘practical’, as they are so fond of claiming for themselves. One has only to look at their methods of town planning and water supply, their obstinate clinging to everything that is out of date and a nuisance, a spelling system that defies analysis, and a system of weights and measures that is intelligible only to the compilers of arithmetic books, to see how little they care about mere efficiency. But they have a certain power of acting without taking thought. Their world-famed hypocrisy – their double-faced attitude towards the Empire, for instance – is bound up with this. Also, in moments of supreme crisis the whole nation can suddenly draw together and act upon a species of instinct, really a code of conduct which is understood by almost everyone, though never formulated. The phrase that Hitler coined for the Germans, ‘a sleep-walking people’, would have been better applied to the English. Not that there is anything to be proud of in being called a sleep-walker.'