Revisiting Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets
You may have wondered, while watching a Streetfilm or reading a post on Streetsblog, where we got the term "livable streets."
The answer can be found in the work of Donald Appleyard, a scholar who studied the neighborhood environment and the ways planning and design can make life better for city residents. In 1981, Appleyard published "Livable Streets" based on his research into how people experience streets with different traffic volumes. The Second Edition of Livable Streets will be published by Routledge Press in 2011.
Today we're revisiting Appleyard's work in the second installment of our series, "Fixing the Great Mistake." This video explores three studies in "Livable Streets" that measured, for the first time, the effect of traffic on our social interactions and how we perceive our own homes and neighborhoods.
"Fixing the Great Mistake" is a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today.
Bruce Appleyard: [00:06] Livable Streets provided the first evidence based research of the problem of traffic on neighbourhood streets. It provided the foundational arguments for traffic calming.
Mark Gorton: [00:19] Donald Appleyard, who was a professor, conducted a series of studies on three different streets in San Francisco chosen to be as identical as possible in every dimension except for one – the amount of traffic on each street. And what Donald Appleyard was able to show that just the mere presence of cars with the envelope of danger that they project around them, and the noise and the pollution, crushes the quality of life in our neighbourhoods.
Bruce Appleyard: [00:48] What’s really interesting about the graphics in Livable Streets and what they really provided was it removed us from just looking at specific numbers of people being hit or killed on streets, but actually showing that there was this other way that we could measure the environmental impacts of traffic on neighbourhood streets. Things such as a light traffic street helped knit a community together, and in contrast, a heavily traffic street would actually rip it apart and fewer social ties were able to be created.
Mark Gorton: [01:18] This chart here shows the social interaction on these three different streets. So each line shows a connection between one person on the street and another. There are just a lot fewer lines on the heavily traffic street as opposed to the moderate or the light traffic street, which clearly has a lot more interconnection. So what these charts are showing is that people on the light traffic street know more people, have more friends than on the heavily traffic street. On the light traffic street people have on average three friends per person, and on the heavily traffic street 0.9 friends per person. The fact that the amount of traffic on the street on which you live can impact the number of friends you have in the world is of enormous significance. The other thing that Donald Appleyard plotted on these charts are these little dots that indicate where people gather. So it shows on the heavily traffic street there are a much smaller number of dots and there are only a handful of places where people would gather on their street. The fact that they were able to measure and quantify the reduction in number of friends, in number of acquaintances that’s caused by traffic is enormously important and helps to illuminate the invisible harm that’s done by traffic everyday.
Bruce Appleyard: [02:44] Also these graphics showing the extent of one’s home territory were incredibly important in helping people understand that the nuisance of traffic, the threat to our safety, the noise, the pollution, that really had a diminishing effect on what we felt was part of our neighbourhood or our home territory.
Mark Gorton: [03:06] And what we have plotted here are peoples’ responses on the three different streets, the heavily traffic street, the moderately traffic street and the lightly traffic street. And so it’s probably easiest to understand these charts on the heavily traffic street cos people basically drew red rectangles which shows their apartment, or in some case, their whole building, as being their home territory. So people defined their home territory as just the individual space in which they lived or maybe the building. If you look on the lightly traffic street you start to see that most of the people are defining their entire street as their home territory, with some people saying their building or a slightly larger area. When you get to the moderately traffic street some people still said it was just their apartment. You had more people saying it was their whole building, and then you had a few people who defined territories as being their whole street. These invisible harms are things that people need to be aware of, they need to be conscious of when they drive so they’re aware of how their driving affects the people around them.
Bruce Appleyard: [04:19] At the basic level, a livable street is one that feels comfortable to you, it’s one that gives you energy. So an unliveable street is one that you want to escape from, and the important part of the research was that it actually shows the senses that we do have about our street environment.
Mark Gorton: [04:35] Another part of the survey that Donald Appleyard conducted with residents on these streets was he gave them a blank map of their street and asked them to draw their street. And what he’s produced here are composite pictures indicating how many times each feature was drawn. What this shows is that on the heavily traffic street they just drew the entirety of the street with very little in the way of details. As you start getting into the moderately traffic street, people start drawing more details about the specific buildings. And when you get to the lightly traffic street, people start including details of buildings, plantings, things like that, that people just know their street a lot better. When they picture it in their head they can picture lots of details, lots of nuances. These studies were the first piece of academic research in the United States to document the social harm that is done by traffic.
[05:38] Auto ownership in this country has grown threefold since livable
streets was first published. So traffic conflicting an incursion
on neighbourhoods is still a major issue we need to deal with.