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The Concepts and Practicality of New urbanism and Pedestrian Cities

New urbanism is a concept that promotes neo-traditional neighborhood based on urban design and emphasizes on a pedestrian based town center as well as sustainability. (Morris 2006). This concept began over 20 years ago in the United States and over the past years, the concept has aroused varying opinions in the US and many other developed worlds, including Australia. This concept has been adopted in certain parts of UK, Australia and USA. Examples of urban areas that have adopted this concept include: Park Duvalle in Louisvilled, Summerset in Pittsburgh, Sherford in South Devon, Upton in Northampton and Beacon Cove in Port Melbourne (Vic.B, 2007).

The concept has become a basis for addressing the physical health and social well being of the people, as well as the sustainable urban growth in a smart manner (Morris, 2006). The concept of urbanism and pedestrian cities is related to environmental sustainability since it demands reduced use of automobile for transport then replaced by the commuter trains or buses. The environment in which people live in require to be put into consideration, and the urbanism concept focuses on the environment ;in its designs and plans coupled with the implementation.

This encourages the urban development to focus on the neighborhood . There is consideration for how people live and interact with each other as well as with the natural environment. The activities that are undertaken in the urban development integrate the aspect of environmental conservation which then ensures that the development of towns does not conflict with the environmental conservation interests. The concept of urbanization and pedestrian cities is related to the level of environmental sustainability in a given area.

Environmental sustainability is whereby the pollution and overexploitation are minimized as development of urban areas continues Urbanization affects how the environment is managed and it is appropriate to view the concept of urbanization as having an effect to environmental sustainability. In this research paper, the relation between urbanization and environmental sustainability will be discussed into details. In the West (especially Europe) ,the Dark Age saw the establishment of cities . The cities grew due to the presence of merchants who gathered there ,traded or loaded their commodities in the cities.

Due to the industrialization which followed, there was need for local democracy and urban governance to address issues that were arising due to rapid growth of the towns. The fast growth of cities went hand in hand with the evolution of concepts in social sciences, technology and economics; and this continued to bring changes in the urban areas . Industrial revolution resulted to lack of clean water and sanitary facilities indicated by lack of a pollution control system; pollution resulted from urbanism which caused diseases and killed people (Arendt et al, 1999).

These concerns saw the establishment of a movement in England, which was referred to as A Healthy City Movement; the movement later spread all over Europe. It was involved in forcing the governments to develop more concern on issues pertaining public health and issued several problems- solving public policies, laws and regulations (Brown et al, 1993). Automobiles were produced in high numbers and were quite affordable. Easy mobility led to urbanization, sub-urbanization and re-urbanization. In the urban areas, industrialization caused an increase in the urban population to the extent of congestion .

In addition lack of automobiles encouraged condensed cities whose effect triggered another form of settlements. Congestion together with the pollution by industries around the urban areas triggered people to start moving from within towns and cities and head towards the rural-urban areas; this was referred to as sub-urbanization. Improvements in the transportation and the infrastructure encouraged sub-urbanization (Lloyd W. 1992). Transport facilities that were available for the people included the trains and commuter buses and facilitated the movement of the people more easily.

The increase in urban areas led to the environmental deterioration with time. Factories caused pollution due to the disposal of waste materials from the products processing and urban areas density was reduced to some extent. This demanded for the need to have environmental sustainability in the urban areas. Efforts to address the public health issues made the towns a much better place, which consequently triggered more people to live in the urban; this was referred to as re-urbanization.

The Urbanism Concept came into recognition after the Earth Summit II in 1992(Alexander et al, 1987). There was a call for all member states to ensure sustainable development concept while they promote the growth of the urban areas. This concept keeps the economic system, social equity, and ecological system in a balance. This has guided the Urbanism and Pedestrian Concept in the world over. Discussion Urbanism in America and Canada was encouraged by migration of huge numbers of people from rural to urban areas with people having various reasons for migrating.

Examples of factors that promoted people movements to the urban areas include: search for employment, search of better facilities, and establishment of business enterprises and availability of transport means to the urban areas. Over the years, the American and Canadian towns began to grow into larger sizes in order to accommodate the increasing urban population where condensed cities were promoted by a large number of automobiles increase . The growth of small towns into large urban areas increased pollution rate, (Arendt et al, 1999), where the growth of industries increased the waste products disposal in the urban areas .

The waste would sometimes be disposed off in the environment and air pollution observed due to industrial production. With time, growth of urban areas also affected the environment raising up concerns on the need to ensure environmental sustainability; measures to minimize or completely prevent environmental destruction were developed. This led to the birth of urbanization and pedestrian city concept which focused on the interaction city concept; interaction between the people and the environment.

New urbanism is based on the objective of attempting to address multiple problems, whereby the principle idea in this concept is to provide solutions. These solutions are related to solving environmental problems; for example global warming, climate change and peak oil pose environmental hazards . New urbanism concept was also very relevant in providing more choices for how and where people want to live (Bacon et al, 1978) and its adoption has developed to various parts of the world due to the benefits that it offers to the people and the environment.

The urbanization concept is made up of other principles and concepts which try to address multiple problems that are experienced in an urban set up with the main idea behind the principle being to provide solutions to global warming and climatic changes. Global warming is thought of as something that can and could play havoc with the world’s living organisms. The human caused increases in the ‘greenhouse’ gases in the atmosphere may commit the world to a global temperature rise of some 10 to 30 in the century and a sea level rise from 1 to 2 meters (Arendt et al, 1999).

Urbanization leads to the growth of industries where increased emissions of the green house gases promote the damage of the Ozone layer and consequently resulting to global warming. Many plant and animal species are affected by these changes and some may even go into extinction. The environment around the urban areas is under streets as conditions deteriorate within and around suitable habitat for the floral and faunal species. Urban areas also experience pollution of soil, water and atmosphere with pollutants being in form of gaseous emissions, sewage disposal and chemical disposal.

These wastes are directed into the urban areas environment resulting to pollutants strained environments that may eliminate large populations of plant and animal species. Use of pesticides and insecticides result to introduction of chemical components into the environment and as a result, soil microbes suffer from pollution. Additionally, Industries that are established to satisfy the needs of the urban population shed heavy metals on the environment (Arendt, C. and Randall, G. (1999).

Urbanization concept promotes integration of the environment aspect into community design through the regional and local connections to transport (Carter 2004). The public space is crucial in any urbanization concept. This in turn leads to ease of pedestrian access to various parts without a hard time, as experienced when the city becomes congested. It also allows the provision of a well-defined and high quality public realm (Hulme, 2005). A high quality public realm enhances proper interaction of the people with each other and with the environment.

Towns that use urbanization concept in building , exposes scenic neighborhoods due to the people’s close proximity to the shopping centers, beautiful apartment designs and units, coupled with open green spaces. This has been observed to encourage tourism activities in the area. Revenue generated from tourism activities can be channeled back to conservation of the environment in the area. The urbanization and pedestrian cities, greatly addresses the ever-increasing urban densities of either towns or cities due to an increase in population over time.

This increases the demand for facilities including accommodation facilities, schools, and water & sewage system. The integration of this concept aims to solve problems arising due to the pressure put on the facilities by an increasing number of people on few facilities. Urban consolidation is achieved through new urbanization urban areas are able to plan and contain urban areas designs in a sustainable way (RMIT, 2006) where examples of urban features include mixed use of the areas and high degree of street connectivity and walk ability.

Urbanism concept reduces urban densities; for example an urbanization plan may require a density of between 25-40 dwellings per hectare. A low-density urban area reduces the rate of exploitation of the resources and facilities encouraging environmental sustainability; high population demand intensive exploitation of the environmental resources to satisfy these needs. Some plants and animals resources may be exploited to the point of extinction. The resources’ exploitation results to the disturbance of the environment or ecosystems increased by human consumption demands.

Expansion of marginal agriculture to increase production of food sources to satisfy the increased urban population cause major habitat destruction as habitats are cleared to create space for agricultural land . In addition, commercial timber harvesting due to high demand of building materials lead to clearance of natural environments (Calthorpe, P. (1993). Prevention of habitat destruction has been hugely assisted by new urbanism concept. Compact and dense development due to the urbanization concept preserves environmental sustainability since the conservation areas can be sited properly.

Proper sites preserve prime environmental assets such as the wetlands, the woodlands and animal habitats (Carter, 2004) with the new urban developments overcoming growth opposition and restrictions. This is done through the development of strong master plans and design codes that exhibit sensitivity to the community, and the environment reduction in energy use. The environmental resources are exploited to provide various energy forms and increase in energy needs translates to more resource exploitation. Reduction of energy demands is very crucial in preventing environmental over-exploitation.

Examples include, transport energy (fuel), infrastructure building materials and water use. Minimized use of these resources reduces the level of the resources exploitation due to reduced energy use hence environmental sustainability (RMIT, 2006). In environmental sustainability, measures are developed where the residents or citizens in an urban area need to participate with citizen participation encouraging teamwork that curbs irresponsible environmental behavior and redistributes power to planning through the ladder of citizen participation and indication of benefits of achieving citizen participation being in the highest form.

The concept of urbanism may have a flexibility to reduce costs and increase its adaptability (Brown et al, 1993) with adaptability being directed towards local contexts in terms of environmental, social and the economic factors and other main principles of new urbanization being addressed: connectivity, mixed housing, workability, mixed use and diversity, quality architecture and urban design, sustainability and quality of life.

Negative concepts of urbanization may include the planning of high-cost housing units, and may fail to serve the needs of the majority population where expensive housing facilities become unaffordable to an average family. Unsatisfied needs of people (housing) do not allow residents to enjoy the merits of having a new urbanized town. The concept of urbanization has been applied in certain areas of the world including the UK, Australia, USA and Europe.

Examples of these areas include: Park Duvalle in Louisvilled, Summerset in Pittsburgh, Sherford in South Devon, Florida in USA, Upton in Northampton and Beacon Cove in Port Melbourne (Vic brown, 2007). These urban areas have experienced both the benefits and disadvantages of adopting the concept of urbanism and pedestrian cities. The following give a detailed discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of urbanization.

One benefit related to environmental sustainability is that in urbanism design, the community design integrates a concern for the environment, done in various ways that may include the regional and local connections to transit (Carter, 2004). This form of integration allows the design to follow environmental sustainability requirements in that town while the community is aware of the need to conserve the environment; they give their support and participation to ensure a healthy and sustainable environment. Cultural aspect of housing designs and planning may be adopted in some areas.

Culture plays a very big role in environmental sustainability. Culture over the years encourages sustainable exploitation of the environmental resources; for example food resources can be acquired while at the same time preventing overexploitation. Traditional housing designs enhance proper use of building materials at a level that does not destroy the environment; for example in Turkey, Bahcesehir, a variety of houses (villas and small mid-rise flats), were built using the traditional Turkish and ottoman styles (Miller, 2000). Whenever new urban areas come up, there is sometimes resistance and opposition to growth.

Environmental restrictions, attitudes and laws may be put into place to prevent the growth of the urban area ;arising from environmental assessments that may indicate environmental pollution and destruction due to the continuous growth and expansion of the town. Establishment of facilities may result to clearing of natural environment to create room for the facilities and recreation facilities (parks, nature trails) may be under risk of elimination to solve such problems and coming in of the urbanism concept overcomes these restrictions.

This it does through strong master plans and design codes, (Briggs et al. 1997) that exhibit sensitivity to the community and the environment. Therefore growth of the urban areas can be done by minimizing environmental impacts that may cause destruction and pollution of the existing environment (Carter 2004). Urbanism and pedestrian cities as a concept advocate for a compact and dense development of an urban area with developments preserving land, parks, buildings and conservation areas; preservation encourages environmental sustainability.

When urbanism is integrated in an area design and plan, the buildings, parks, trails and conservation areas can be sited approximately (CalThorpe, P. (1993). The appropriate sitting preserves prime environmental assets that include wetlands, woodlands and animal habitats hence promoting the environmental sustainability of the urban area. A scenic neighborhood is promoted by the urbanism and pedestrian cities due to the resident’s proximity to shops, the beautiful designed apartments and units and open green space. Open green spaces prevent environmental deterioration which may be caused by clearing of green areas to make room for buildings.

The green spaces offer recreational facilities, promotes a clean and green environment, creates awareness on the need to preserve the environment and offer a habitat for various species of flora and Fauna (Christofordis et al. 1994). Environmental conservation requires residents’ participation and support and citizens’ participation has been encouraged by the concept of urbanism with the concept addressing the importance of redistributing power planning. The redistribution is done through the ladder of citizen participation with an indication of benefits of achieving the highest form of citizen participation.

Participation of residents in environmental sustainability issues and activities is promoted by urbanism concept. New urbanization offers people a new way to achieve urban consolidation, where consolidation is planned, contained and aimed at designing sustainable cities (RMIT, 2005). Features of an urban consolidated set-up may include; mixed use areas, high local employment, high degree of street connectivity and walk ability, and a density of between 25-40 dwellings per hectare. The residents are close to public transport and sustainable city minimizing on the high rate of human effects on the environmental sustainability.

The urbanism and pedestrian cities design is considered perfect for the tourism communities with tourism communities being near the beach or natural attractions such as the forests and lakes. Tourism activities generate income for continued conservation in the area; educate people on environmental sustainability and gives rise to much better designs that promote preservation. Recreational facilities allow people to interact and appreciate the natural environment, which creates a positive attitude towards environmental sustainability (Donald, 1981).

Sewage treatment systems that are viable can be developed in urban areas through urbanism. In an expanding urban area, pressure increases on the facilities to cater for the increasing needs and there is need for sewage systems to be viable and to cater for an increasing density of people; proper sewage systems create room for sustainability by preventing pollution of the surrounding environment. Reduction of private transport means is replaced by commuter buses or trains which can offer transport to a large number of people at a given time.

It would be very practical to reduce automobiles in urban areas to reduce environmental effects. By developing urban areas through urbanism, governments can be able to overcome the opposition and restrictions that oppose growth of urban areas. This is because the designs and plans exhibit sensitivity to the community and the environment (Canter and David, 1977). Governments are able to consolidate development which in turn ensure that land, parks and conservation areas are sited in a manner that preserves prime environmental assets (wetlands, woodlands and animal habitats).

The urbanism concept reduces energy use when it comes to the transport and infrastructure. Government would benefit by saving on expenditure on energy use (Fainstein et al 2000). On the other hand, it would be difficult to easily displace people’s love affair with the car, even if it is economically feasible to do so (Calthorpe et al 1993). Urbanism may also fail to be practical if there is no employment in the urban area due to the concept’s adoption. High cost housing units for average families may be unlikely to serve the needs in the majority of the urban population.

Urbanism is also challenged by the lack of a uniform definition of an urban community. Conclusion Minimal use of automobile reduces air pollution caused by fuel emissions. Urbanism has been adopted with the aim of reducing this form of pollution. Where urbanism concept is not implemented effectively, the transport system may be affected negatively. Activities that work towards environmental sustainability may not be hindered, if the activities that require transport services cannot be carried out (Harvey 1997). If the housing facilities are very expensive an average family cannot afford it.

In search for other housing alternatives, environmental resources may be overexploited to put into place cheaper housing facilities. An urban area should increase the employment rate to match the increasing human population. Employment offers people, a way to earn their living with people being able to satisfy their needs without necessarily getting involved in activities that affect the surrounding environment. Urbanism sometimes may be inappropriate where it causes unemployment. For example people who have earlier been employed, may be dismissed if sectors where they were working are reduced.

In search for an alternative way of making a living the people may turn to environmental resources exploitation unsustainability (Calthorpe, P. (1993). It might be disadvantageous to environmental sustainability if urbanism designs demand processes that may affect the environment. The concept of urbanism and pedestrian cities may be practical in environmental sustainability. Governments can be able to adopt this concept. Practicality promotes environmental sustainability in the urban areas. New urbanism is very similar to the old urbanism which was experienced before the sub-urbanism

In the urban areas, human population keeps on expanding causing an increase in the number of automobiles to offer transport services that are highly demanded. This definitely increases air pollution from fuel emission. There is a demand for public space for the urban residents. The reduction of automobiles increases public space and reduces the rate of air pollution from the automobiles.

References

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