Barry Watkins 11/6/2015
Our ultimate goal here at Walkable Brevard is to basically completely re-vamp the way we build things in our county. See, we’ve been doing it pretty much 180 degrees the wrong way since the mid-20th century with car-dominance and now we have to fix it in order to bring things into balance. One of the best things we’d like to see happen here is for the county and cities to adopt the SmartCode. The SmartCode is a plug-in code that we can add as a chapter to our existing land development codes. It replaces the old codes in a very streamlined way, but it’s designed so that the new code and the old codes can coexist side by side for a time. Eventually the old codes would just die off from lack of use and the SmartCode becomes the new standard, but it can and should be done in a gradual, evolutionary way. That’s the way the SmartCode is designed to work.
What the SmartCode will do for us is to give us a very clear framework so that places are built in a pedestrian- and bike- friendly way. It puts walking and bicycling in their proper priority and also accommodates cars very well. When we adopt it, it will radically transform the way new places are built, and it will allow for a gradual change in a positive direction for existing places.
What are we advocating that’s different from the way things are built now? Pretty much everything! When designing for cars we create environments that are diametrically opposed to walking and bicycling. We make blocks inside out compared to how they should be built. The car-dominant pattern puts car parking in the front and pushes buildings back from the street. If you want to accommodate walking you want building entrances close to the sidewalk so we move the car parking to the back. We want small lots with multi-story buildings so that when you’re walking from one place to another at the street level more front doors are within an easy walk. The car-dominant, sprawl way of building is to make things all single story and spread far apart. After all, if you’re doing everything by car then it’s cheaper and more convenient to keep it on one floor, and who cares if the store is a couple of miles from your house? In a car, you can zip over there in a couple of minutes, but if someone is walking it takes an hour just to get to the store and back if it’s only 1.5 miles away. Quite a difference!
The SmartCode way of building will be better for everyone, and we need to make the change now rather than later. The longer we wait the more painful the changes will be. Let’s start today and start building things right. If we adopt the SmartCode now,by the time 20 or 30 years has passed we will see amazing improvements and it won’t be so dangerous to walk or bike around if you want to. Cars won’t see major disastrous traffic jams either. A balanced system will result where all users of our roads are accommodated properly. Once the SmartCode is adopted, kids will have an easier time bicycling or walking to school or to soccer practice. We can all use less fuel and pollute less because even if we choose to drive our driving distances can be shortened because we will be building things at a walkable scale. Pretty cool, eh?
Many of our communities have been working on introducing walking- and cycling- friendly code changes already. That’s fantastic, but it’s not near enough! The problems with sprawl are so pervasive and the right way to do it is so opposite the way we do it now that we need a broad-sweeping change in our coding to be able to make a dent in the right direction! Adopting the SmartCode is absolutely the smartest way I know of to make our communities walkable. It’s almost plug and play but is also very easy to customize to be compatible with existing places in our county. From rural settlements to small towns to our bigger cities, the SmartCode is entirely scalable and will work great within all of the conditions we can possibly throw at it. It will bring consistency to our efforts throughout the county, but also allows for all of the variation we want to build into it to preserve the uniqueness of each community.