Tessellar Blog

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Re-inventing the Cul-de-sac

I've been really busy this last few months: it's hard work trying to get the honeycomb projects moving. And so blogging has been getting more difficult.

But i've only noticed that the Honeycomb concept was featured in Tree Hugger in a feature titled "re-inventing the cul-de-sac" posted by Lloyd Alter.

So thanks Lloyd!

The post attracted 15 comments, and I'm reproducing them here. I'm grateful for the positive comments, but even the critical ones are useful.


Chris H. said:

I like the idea of higher density, but it seems to me that there are still the issues of car dependence and that it doesn't lend itself to redevelopment and change. I still don't know what's wrong with the grid system, especially when the terrain lends itself to it. There aren't any commercial amenities nearby to anyone such as groceries, restaurants, or entertainment venues so the automobile is still going to be the main blight... er... source of transportation

I guess what it boils down to for me is that high density sprawl is still sprawl, and therefore still the problem. I appreciate what he is trying to do, but as gas prices continue to rise for most of the world, the cul-de-sac just seems like the wrong thing to encourage.

April 7, 2008 1:22 PM


Kearns said:

I'd live there.

Wonder if my boss would let me work remote from Malaysia?

April 7, 2008 2:52 PM

nobody's perfect said:

I still disagree with the usage of cul-de-sac being propagated here. A cul-de-sac is simply the end of street circle. You can have higher density townhomes on cul-de-sacs, or even an apartment building.

April 7, 2008 4:45 PM

Damon said:

@ nobody's perfect: you can, but how often do you? And like Chris mentioned, low density is not the only problem of this layout.

April 7, 2008 8:35 PM

Roland said:

There's a type of dutch street called a woonerf, that has all the benefits of a cul-de-sac (slowed traffic and...well that's it isn't it?) plus more. The idea is to put obstacles in the path of the cars to slow them down to below 20 mph. This allows pedestrians and bicyclists to share the street with the cars. The street then becomes a social space rather than a highway. They haven't caught on in the US, because drivers don't like the idea of slowing down that much. But, ironically, that is exactly what the beloved cul-de sacs do. They slow drivers down, which increases safety.
April 7, 2008 8:45 PM

Dan said:

See, now these are the types of grids I always wanted to make in SimCity. I imagined hexagonal residential spaces like these with commercially zoned triangles between them. Damn those square grid limitations.

April 8, 2008 12:15 AM

Nathan Blair said:

I love the idea, but I don't see why it would eliminate the need for cars, or reduce sprawl. It looks cool though, and I'd have no problem moving to a subdivision like that.
April 8, 2008 2:00 AM

I don't understand why you think cul-de-sac has to mean car dependency and sprawl. But then not being American I don't see the square grid as being "normal".

Surely in a grid, having roads on all sides and greater road access, promotes car use. I think you are connecting the layout with other aspects of the situation in which it is normally used (in your experience). So, I don't see it is the street pattern that influences it - it is the nearness to facilities, the size of plots, etc.

The layout is surely not the key to what happens - whather grid, dead-end or the normal for Europe (wiggly roads and odd angles, some dead-end, some through).

April 8, 2008 11:35 AM

anonymous said

The point of buying a house on a cul-de-sac is that you get a larger yard and less traffic. If you increase the housing density then appeal is gone. Nobody wants to live at the end of the road because it's the end of the road. Just think of trying to find a house in that maze!

My parents live on a cul-de-sac. A lot of their traffic is kids on skates and bikes.

April 8, 2008 12:15 PM

Josh said:

The reason why cul-de-sacs translate into car dependency and sprawl is a lack of connectivity. Compare the ratio of legs (raod segments) to nodes (intesections). Connected landscapes will have more nodes per leg while disconnected landscapes will have fewer nodes per leg. Disconnected landscapes mean that people will often have to travel further (by the way the ant walks) to reach their destinations. This translates into using a car more often. On the other hand, connected landscapes make the trips shorter and promote walking. (Remember how roads are used by both cars and pedestrians, as well as bicycles, etc.)
The first cul-de-sacs had meaningful destinations within them (such as small grocery stores and other services); modern cul-de-sacs do not. In order to reinvent the cul-de-sac and make it meaningful as a small enclave of a community, we must remember that a community invilves more than just residences.

April 8, 2008 1:20 PM

Anonymous sustainable coward said:

mmm... I find this 'planned' geometric format as distasteful as the grid system that has propogated over the US. The proposition that 'environmentalists dislike cul-de-sac's' an absurd generalisation. I live in a cul-de-sac, in a village in Europe where the streets evolved in line with the local geography, not due to some artificial town planners lego-set.

I cycle everywhere, and get the train to the local town if I need to. I don't have a car. My life is not more energy intensive or car dependent. The vegetables and fruit I grow in my garden are distinctly low-carbon (or is that 'energy secure'?)

Please think a little about context before committing to large sweeping generalisations based on US car loving lifestyles. I do like the 'green spaces' idea though. I find that we interact with our neighbours and share much more because we all look out for one another - stick that in your high rise city boxes and smoke it.

The 'city bias' in Treehugger can be quite unimaginative at times.

c'mon guys... your're better than this.

April 8, 2008 1:27 PM

dan rossini, Diocese of LaCrosse said:

Each post gets a certain number of ad dollars for each viewing. The more viewers per page, the more $$ for Treehugger.com.

Therefore, since the previous post was so popular, they will continue to talk about this silly subject and roll in the cash. Because I think 95% of us readers can agree that this is pretty much a pie-in-the-sky pipe dream to get builders to modify current modern building techniques like cul-de-sacs with this website. But it will generate views, that's for sure.

I fell for it. Count me in for adding a few extra dollars to Treehugger.com's profits... that is Discovery Communications, the cable programming giant's pockets. Cha-ching!

April 8, 2008 1:49 PM

Mayyie said:

I like his use of the tesselar hexagon.
April 9, 2008 1:05 AM

dyspeptic said:

I still want to know what type of housing the writer lives in.

Minimizing paved surface is a good idea. It is at odds with this connectivity idea, though. That geometric grid has more paved area per living unity than any cul-de-sac arrangement I've ever seen. Why aren't we greening the car instead of shortening drives?

My observation of planned co-housing communities is that they are just cul-de-sacs with more fences, not less, and just as many cars. But one is cool and the other is not. It is all class signalling - 100%.

LA: the writer of this post (not the original writer at the Star) lives in a detached house, downtown, on a 30 foot wide lot, on a street that is part of the urban grid. My mother in law lives on a cul-de-sac and my wife tells me that it was an absolutely wonderful place to grow up. My mother-in-law is now old and has to maintain a car because there is not a single store within walking distance. Where we live, there are three large grocery stores and more variety stores than you can count within a ten minute walking radius, and half the people on the street don't have cars. the cul-de-sac is lovely, fun, great for kids but is simply not sustainable.

April 11, 2008 6:55 PM

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