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Do-It-Yourself Cities

by Marilyn Berlin Snell

Can communities find better ways to grow? Across the country, smarter, better-planned, more walkable developments are sprouting up without sprawling out. The new neighborhoods offer residents easy access to public transportation while creating a good mix of housing, shopping, and employment possibilities around a downtown area.

Dan Burden's Street Design Guidelines for Healthy Neighborhoods offers 25 principles for smart streets. These include bike lanes; sidewalks on both sides of the street; well-marked crosswalks, with medians on wider streets; and narrow streets and tight curves to reduce vehicle speeds. Burden thinks big but also gets down to brass tacks: He recommends sidewalk and pavement widths, number of lanes, and average speeds for streets. He also offers tree-planting ideas and suggestions for nearby land uses. The guidebook is available for $25 from the Center for Livable Communities, 1414 K St. #250, Sacramento, CA 95814-3929; (800) 290-8202;

The Sierra Club's Challenge to Sprawl Campaign also produces helpful information for people who care about their communities. Its 2001 report, which will be available in late November, grades 50 metropolitan areas' efforts to reduce car and truck pollution. Earlier reports include a survey of all 50 states' land-use policies, "the good, the bad, and the poorly zoned"; descriptions and statistics regarding the social, cultural, environmental, and economic costs of sprawl; and how-to guides for activists, based on successful anti-sprawl campaigns around the country. To download the reports, visit

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