by Mateja Mihinjac
In the previous blog, I presented the extent of vacant storefronts. This blog looks at how they impact crime and fear, and proposes some possible measures that could be implemented to tackle the problem.
Vacant storefronts may impact safety and perception of safety in two major ways. First, vacancies signify lack of ownership over the stores, especially if defaced, and can become crime generators or areas that trigger undesirable street behaviours.
This can be especially problematic if the number of vacancies within a defined area reaches its tipping point and becomes blighted, the concept from the Second Generation CPTED.
Second, decreased street usage from vacant storefronts impacts perceptions of safety. Street users are strongly influenced by others around them that they perceive as non-threatening. This is why streets that focus on pedestrians and entice them with active storefronts and street vendors increase street activity and make the users feel safer.
Thus, if parts of the city communicate isolation or activities by undesirable groups, they will cease to be a place the general population visits, or visits only for a limited time.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There are three main categories of possible responses: urban planning; economic development; rent and regulations.
LAND USE PLANNING
COMMERCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
RENT AND REGULATIONS
Any initiatives targeted at boosting business and providing incentives for business owners and shoppers are futile if safety concerns are not addressed.
I disagree with the perspective that urban regeneration should start only when crime drops. Waiting for problems to arise only perpetuates the vicious cycle of crime while citizens stay away from downtown areas. When that occurs, shop owners are left with few options except to purchase expensive and obstructive security measures. This is why safety is an integral part of successful and liveable neighborhoods.
Despite claims to the contrary, reclaiming livability from neighborhoods with entrenched crime and blight is much more difficult and costly than preventing it in the first place. Integrating land uses, zoning, economic activity, regulations and rents, in collaboration with local stakeholders, is the key to livable active streets and what we now call Third Generation CPTED.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Local shops and offices that occupy storefronts of downtown and suburban streets inject life into those places. Without them, these areas would not attract local residents or visitors and that would leave downtown areas barren and vulnerable to crime. Vacant storefronts communicate messages to passers-by such as an economic downturn, unsafe conditions, or a lack of care. These were some of the responses shared by the participants in a field study I conducted last year.
THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM
While an increase in storefront vacancies appears almost universal across western countries, the extent of the problem varies between countries, cities and even within the neighborhoods:
Some cities, such as Melbourne, have experienced reductions in their downtown vacant rates but have observed more issues with suburban areas. A scan across 11 suburban retail strips uncovered a vacancy rate of 8.4% with the highest at nearly 17%.
Given a commonly cited 5% “acceptable” vacancy rate, it is not surprising that vacant shopping corridors are a growing worry of commercial experts, CPTED practitioners, and criminologists who study such matters.
REASONS BEHIND VACANCIES
Vacancies are not uniformly distributed across cities and suburbs for a number of reasons. Some include:
Other possible reasons for vacancies include rezoning, gentrification and shifting consumer preferences. Ultimately, vacant storefronts not only influence the economy, but they influence safety and social life. In short, when vacancies arise, conditions also arise for street crime and worsening fear.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
In our Third Generation CPTED article last year, we pinpoint the importance of social, economic, and environmental sustainability as protective factors against neighbourhood decline. Active local shops and robust local economies are paramount for a decent quality of life. This is a core principle of our vision of liveable 21st Century cities.
The next blog will explore how vacant storefronts impact crime and possible solutions for addressing them.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
“The town is called Penguin?", my friend said to me as we drove along the highway in Northern Tasmania. "We have to check that out!” And so, I took the exit.
We came upon the town centre of this coastal community to find a large penguin statue. But not only the statue, everything was penguin-themed. Penguin play areas, penguin posts, even penguin trashcans. All of the stores along the main street were littered with penguin artwork. We had to know more.
It turns out that Penguin, Tasmania is aptly named. Penguins gather in the rookeries along their beachfront. While penguins are pretty interesting creatures, especially to those of us from the Northern Hemisphere, it wasn’t the local wildlife that caught my attention.
What was interesting was the way in which penguins had become a part of their community’s culture. So much so that every placemaking attempt featured the cute little southern birds. There are several areas across the state where Penguins can be found, but this town had dedicated their entire community’s identity to these birds.
I worried that the focus on penguins might solely be an attempt to attract tourists. However, it was clear that the penguin theme was fairly organic and community-based. Each of the small seaside stores had committed to the theme in their own way. Some stores had fun penguin-themed names, others had large stuffed penguins in their windows and still, others had painted penguins on their walls. Even more exciting, the town holds a penguin-themed community market that has been running for twenty years.
COHESION AND CULTURE
If there was any doubt that the town was committed to their shared culture, their reaction to developers trying to capitalize on the town’s proximity to penguin rookeries proves otherwise. When I did some digging about the town’s history, I found that they had prevented some major development plans that would have dramatically changed the landscape of the downtown area and potentially affected their community’s cohesion and culture.
Not only had local residents fought hard against the development, but they also started heritage listing their storefronts. By the end, they had heritage listed 26 sites and prevented the development plans.
Tourism can dramatically impact neighbourhoods in desirable places (see the backlash in Barcelona to increasing tourism). Further, while developers often try to capitalize on these opportunities, it is clear that residents who work together to maintain control over their local history not only can protect their local culture but continue to grow and expand that culture for their entire community. In this way, community-based tourism is often an exercise in building local culture and cohesion.
by Mateja Mihinjac
The public bench has become an indispensable part of city life. It represents a primary seating option for taking a rest, conversing with a friend, having a coffee or a meeting, or simply observing the theatre of the street.
However, occasionally a bench is blamed for drug dealing, panhandling, loitering, vagrancy, or homelessness. This has led to calls for eradicating them or revamping them to reduce their attractiveness for prolonged occupation.
This knee-jerk reaction is not uncommon. We’ve written before about target-hardening approaches, hostile architecture and even vilifying the trees for crime problems and safety issues.
Criminalizing loitering, especially when perceived as acts of lower social class, is a common example that diminishes use of public space.
These simplistic decisions are often underthought, short-lived, and are notorious for dehumanizing particular groups of people.
The question of removing benches extends beyond the presence street furniture. It is also about civility, ethics and inclusion. This sentiment comes from our New Zealand SafeGrowth Advocate, Sue Ramsay, who argues that the public debate around city planning should not only evolve around walkability but also sitability. Consider, for example, the needs of the elderly and less able groups in public space.
BEYOND THE BENCH
In a bid to address undesirable uses cities should encourage positive uses of their downtowns if they don’t wish to surrender them to vilified groups. Installation of benches, in particular, is often part of downtown revitalization programs because they attract diverse users and communicate to them they are welcome to use public space.
Importantly, we should be aware that disorder and undesirable behaviors are a symptom of a social problem greater than design.
Before vilifying the bench, how about clearly understanding what underlies the problem and targeting collaborative programs that help? How about work programs and skills programs for those with nowhere to go but benches? How about revitalizing downtowns through festivals, activities, local shops and cafes that focus on desirable activities?
A public bench is the epitome of public life. It allows one to both socialize and be alone, yet remain connected to the social world around them. It is the symbol of access to communal outdoor spaces.
By Mateja Mihinjac
Last week I outlined why the problem of vehicular attacks on pedestrians demands thinking beyond target hardening. These incidents cannot be simply eradicated through design, but some of the alternatives below offer possibilities for reducing negative social impacts that accompany hyper-security.
One way to avoid perpetuating fear and altering aesthetics of public spaces is to transform overt, obtrusive security to less visible (or invisible) security. Instead of fortressing our cities and increasing mass surveillance, target hardening practices can be integrated into the environment (e.g. street furniture, layout, paving styles, use of special materials).
Multiple cases of concrete bollards painted by local artists and activists show that citizens care about the appearance of their public spaces and the message they convey to their users. Other less obtrusive strategies include natural barriers such as rain gardens, ponds, bridges and Ha-Ha walls.
Successful experiments have also demonstrated how altering pedestrian movement through playful and non-obtrusive designs such as floor markings and mirrors prompts people to use a designated safe route and foster their connection to both place and their users.
Congruent with the smart city movement, new invisible technical solutions are also possible. Sweden is now testing geo-fencing on a large scale before the country may be the first to implement this approach in a fight against heavy vehicles attacks. In the U.S., architects are designing safer schools.
Another popular option includes altering zoning practices in city centers such as special downtown zones that limit vehicle use to light-weight and slow-speed vehicles or pedestrian-only areas. Such zones have a life of their own. They provide opportunities for people to explore and enjoy them. Concurrently they help reclaim public space through reprogramming a restricted area into a positive land use. They also demand improved pedestrian infrastructure and street networks that support easy and safe movement.
The ideas about walkable and human scale design have culminated in practices such as the Barnes dance intersections. The World Resources Institute also provides a detailed overview of measures that prioritize a safe and human scale transport design.
Security professionals, designers and planners can balance security and socially-appropriate measures by providing safety and support connections as well as interactions between people. Obtrusive security measures divide and create barriers between people. There are better alternatives.
by Greg Saville
We are frequently asked in our seminars how to activate unsafe places with fun, lively and safe activities. In CPTED the generic term used for this is called ‘activity generation’, but that term hardly describes it nor what works in one place over another. For years our SafeGrowth programs have turned to urban placemaking for answers.
Placemaking began, some claim, with the 1970s research of William H. Whyte, especially his book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.
It was Whyte who inspired the development of New York’s PPS - the Project for Public Spaces - still an active placemaking group today. A few years ago we worked alongside PPS in New Jersey and found placemaking directly relevant to CPTED, particularly 2nd Generation CPTED.
More recently our friends at Portland’s City Repair movement have been an inspiration. Members of City Repair attended our first SafeGrowth Summit two years ago and we often feature their guerrilla architecture on this blog.
NEW YORK POP-UP
This week we conducted training for community leaders in New York. SafeGrowth Advocate Brad Vassallo joined our training team and ran a terrific session during our training called POP-up placemaking, which is the process of directly engaging local residents and passers-by at a public spot where place activation may help.
POP-up placemaking has the advantage of requiring few funds and simple planning. Because it will not last long, it may have only short-term impact. However, a regular program of POP-ups may well provide a planner or community practitioner a great tactic to engage locals in a fun and easy way to start the long process of building relationships and reducing fear.
On the streets outside Penn Station in New York, our 4 teams spoke to dozens of New Yorkers, enticed them to use simple materials (blue interlocking rubber tiles, tape, chalk, colored string), and construct some simple and fun placemaking activities. Within minutes people stopped to participate, write, dance, talk, laugh, and co-create spaces around a bus stop, a subway stairway entrance, and along a public wall.
It took less than 30 minutes to complete the entire activity using about $100 of material. Obviously, space activation need not be complicated, expensive, or permanent. In a class exercise, this was simple enough. In a real-life community project, this can launch a transformation.
by Greg Saville
Years ago I spent an afternoon with the exceptional urban designer Richard Gardiner. Anyone reading encylclopedia references about the beginning of CPTED will recognize Richard Gardiner’s name, especially his 1978 book Design for Safe Neighborhoods, the first attempt to transform CPTED into a comprehensive planning system.
In our chats, Richard described how he had moved away from CPTED and began focusing on the serious congestion problem of street parking. He had developed an ingenious parking management program to tackle the assumption that “free parking is actually costing governments and institutions millions of dollars each year without their actually being aware of it. Public parking in cities constitutes the third-highest hidden cost that U.S. cities face each year.”
I'm embarrassed to admit I just didn't get it. Urban land economics wasn't my thing back then; it seemed unimportant. But in the years since then, I came to see the huge impact on both safety and urban finance. This was especially the case when I observed the Portland Intersection Repair program where residents reclaimed their neighborhood by reclaiming their local intersection.
PARKING SPACES FOR LEASE
Lately, I’ve seen a fascinating variation on this theme: Municipalities that lease the street parking areas in front of restaurants and bars. The bars turn this area into outside sitting areas, eating areas or other uses for their patrons.
Does this help make sidewalks and streets safer by putting more eyes on those streets? Does it make those streets less safe at night if those same bars have poor management and thereby trigger drunken street brawls and drunk driving?
Obviously, funds from leased parking spaces will feed city coffers and that might help recover the hidden costs of free parking (or with few meters, minimally costed parking). Those funds might help cash starved municipalities reinvest into their cities.
But what, I wonder, does this mean for other types of transportation, such as bicycle riders who still have inadequate and safe parking spots for their bikes?
It felt strange looking at a faded, black and white wall photo of a downtown street from 1900. No expressways. No cars. Only horses, buggies and Victorian dressed pedestrians. The Model T Ford was eight years away.
I wonder if those pedestrians had the foggiest notion of the transport tsunami that would befall their children a few decades forward?
Expressways and cars changed everything. Horses and buggies vanished. Expressways depleted cities of the middle class and led to deserted high crime downtowns. They triggered sprawl and, along with vanishing streetcar lines, the decline of urban villages. In return cars offered individual freedom to roam and opportunity to escape congestion and crime in congested downtowns.
Last week another mobility tsunami emerged - car free cities! Norway announced that the central area of the capital city Oslo will be car-free in 4 years. The Oslo council plans to permanently ban vehicles from their central city.
It’s hard to argue the plan isn't futuristic. SafeGrowth blogs in the past describe similar visions, a theoretical design called The Venus Project and an urban experiment called Masdar City, currently under construction.
Oslo, however, is the first existing major city with over a half million residents to attempt it for real. It is unclear how 60 kilometers of new bike lanes will help residents navigate Oslo’s -5C, snowy winters. Horse buggies perhaps? Yet their plan to create a carless city heralds a truly visionary future.
GUEST BLOG - Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia currently completing doctoral research into the implementation of CPTED. She has co-taught SafeGrowth in Australia and New Zealand. Mateja worked in the Constitutional Court in Slovenia and is an active member of the International CPTED Association.
Food is a great conversation starter and starting place for building community. At least a portion of everyone’s daily life revolves around food. The community of Todmorden, West Yorkshire in England took this a step further and created a vision of community building around the local food production cycle.
The Incredible Edible project’s modest beginnings reach back to 2008 when the volunteers of Todmorden first started planting fruit trees, vegetables and herbs, and activating unused land by planting communal gardens all over the town. The project has since become an all-community, sustainable local initiative, explained in this TED talk by Pam Warhurst.
Edible reflects many of the same principles in successful SafeGrowth projects:
The Incredible Edible project skilfully employs placemaking through the language of food. This revolution, as the residents of Todmorden like to call it, has now spurred worldwide attention with the Incredible Edible initiatives emerging on all continents. Edible shows the power of small actions when it comes to building communities.
The latest tactical urbanism in San Francisco is called the Market Street Prototyping Festival. It symbolizes the 21st Century form of public engagement. Public engagement is a linchpin for success when it comes to placemaking, SafeGrowth and all sorts of good things urban. Safety and crime prevention too depend on it, at least if you believe in life beyond target hardening.
Tactical urbanism is the key.
Tactical urbanism, coined from the book with the same name, is what Portland has been doing for ages during the Intersection Repair projects. It is a low-cost and learn-by-doing strategy reminiscent of so many social action strategies of the 60s except this time the result is physical changes within neighborhoods that avoid long planning processes.
San Francisco is the latest to try tactical urbanism by welcoming artists, urban designers and others to set up their innovations along Market Street. A few selections occupying the upper register of my cool-o-meter: Data Lanterns that glow brighter to announce arriving trains, metal walls that turn into a musical instrument on touch, and street seats made from compacted mushrooms for composting afterwards.
Arriving in Middle Earth you might expect Frodo Baggins, not surprising if you land at Wellington airport where a monstrous Gollum sculpture reaches for a salmon instead of the One Ring. Tourism promoters here are on a roll.
New Zealand is a lyrical land with people not quite Elven and certainly not Orc, yet totally marvelous. No wonder the Lord of the Rings was filmed in this beautiful country. And there is reason for jubilation beyond tourism, this time from SafeGrowth innovations in Christchurch.
Following the devastating 2011 earthquakes, Christchurch adopted a forward-thinking redevelopment plan. Central to the plan was a belief that “good urban design creates attractive, safe and functional environments” and “careful design…can help make places less susceptible to crime”. How true! My favorite was their commitment to neighborhoods as the best way to organize development - exactly the philosophy of SafeGrowth.
Then, amid the massive rebuilding efforts, CPTED expertise arose in the form of a Crime Prevention Team led by Sue Ramsay. In harmony with the redevelopment plan, Sue launched SafeGrowth programming. I reported some early work last year in a blog post.
The SafeGrowth work in Christchurch has been exceptional. Two neighborhoods – West Riccarton and Phillipstown - now have multiple projects underway.
SAFEGROWTH IN CHRISTCHURCH
One team created a model asset map. Another, the Paeora Reserve team, found funding to install solar tables and couches to activate a public park. In Phillipstown, SafeGrowth followed a neighborhood policing team who conducted successful problem-oriented policing to cut crime (winning a national award for policing excellence). That cleared the way for SafeGrowth strategies to build cohesion and establish sustainable community development so problems don’t return. Now the team is cracking negative stereotypes of their neighborhood.
In West Riccarton the Harrington Park team concluded; “Most of the recommendations can be owned by the people of the neighbourhood who can then develop their utilisation of the park easily and without major financial input.”
That's the difference between a resident and a responsible citizen!
This is impressive work! Christchurch seems to have learned an essential lesson – that the hackneyed phrase community development has little meaning without legs. It cannot materialize without a coherent planning method like SafeGrowth. Without that, it is filled with fail.
More importantly, community development cannot really happen without attention to safety and perceptions of safety. The SafeGrowth efforts in Christchurch reveal a city rising from the ashes of a tragic earthquake! These are exciting times in Middle Earth!
Neighborhood collaboration infers there is a reason to do so and a place to do it. In SafeGrowth the reason is simple; crime and safety. But why do we need a common place to collaborate and how do we get that? Aren't community halls enough? Don't we have adequate common places for that now?
No we don't!
In the Ted Talk below my friend, Portland architect Mark Lakeman tells us why. Mark has appeared on this blog before about Safety With a Potluck. Here he is on a roll! It's fascinating how he starts slow and builds tempo to such an obvious conclusion that somehow escapes how we currently build neighborhoods.
I remember sitting next to a colleague last year when Mark presented this idea during a keynote address. My colleague, clearly uncomfortable with the unconventional method in Portland's Intersection Repair program, whispered: "What about the home owners near the intersection who don't want to participate?"
"Oh," I should have answered, but didn't, "do you mean the one's who prefer isolation and alienation? Or do you mean you don't understand how intersection repair accounts also for their need for privacy?"
Mark answers this when he describes Monopoly as the economic motif for how we plan cities and a game we all grew up with. We don't even question the logic of Monopoly as a way of doing business. Mark does! That's an idea worth spreading.
Yesterday I walked another small town, this time the village of Langley in Washington State, and found a gem. It reminded me of themes from the book Happy City and what my social planner friend Wendy Sarkissian says about making spaces work well. "We must pay careful – and loving – attention to the fine grain. The divine dwells in the details."
That was true last week in my blog on Brandon where high-density, low income housing so dramatically outshone nearby low-density suburban sprawl. And it was true yesterday in Langley where plants, paintings, murals, and all sorts of personal embellishments adorned laneways, alleys and the walkways between them. More importantly, those adornments were installed and maintained with loving attention by the owners of adjacent shops and residents living nearby.
Wisely, the town council did not regulate away these informal design details in some regulatory panic. That was wise. It is a step towards the fine grained urban design that will succeed where design guidelines will not. And it looks beautiful. (They were busy too! I waited for ages to take pictures without people walking in the alleyways). People say they don't like alleyways and high density until they see how well it can work.
In her 2012 presentation What's Psychology got to do with NIMBY? Wendy reminds us in order to show residents how it works "we must retrieve and embrace our lost sociological and psychological wisdom about what makes good housing and good neighborhoods."
In Langley lanes were decorated with flowers and windows looked down upon those flower-strewn spaces. Beauty and natural surveillance work better when they go hand in hand.
Skillful attention to the fine grain is precisely why the permeability-is-bad crowd miss the point. They believe more people walking and driving through an area increases crime risks because more potential criminals can access crime opportunities anonymously.
We don't need gated communities to be safe. What places inside Brandon and Langley show is that even places with plenty of flow-through can be made safe with the right kind of density, fine grain design, and locals who care.
Five years ago an abandoned, elevated rail line in Manhattan morphed into the future. Once a gritty freight line that died with the economy in 1980, demolition was the extent of government creativity.
Then two locals came along, started a grass-roots, non-profit Friends of the High Line campaign and started working with city hall on a new kind of elevated walking greenspace. Thus was born New York's High Line Park.
Yesterday a few of us from the recent SafeGrowth class walked a mile of this park alongside hundreds of strolling families and couples relaxing on lounge chairs. It's a unique oasis where locals and tourists retreat from the noisy cars and paved sidewalks below. By some counts over a million walk it yearly.
People will comfortably walk 20 blocks up here versus fighting the mayhem that passes for New York traffic. The park meanders past vistas of the river on one side and through newly constructed glass office buildings on the other. At night, when we visited, it was creatively lighted and felt like a sidewalk of the future.
Park police patrol it and I saw a few CCTV, but mostly the large number of people using it made the remarkable landscaping their own space. As for crime the New York Times said it best: "The park might be elevated, but the crime rate is not."
Among her many contributions to urban culture - especially in regards to crime - Jane Jacobs shone a light on what she called the subtle "ballet of the street". Hers was the gift to look and see what locals and city officials actually do to their pubic spaces and how they treat or mistreat them.
The ability to see with Eyes Wide Open is the cultivated skill of looking with an uncluttered mind unswayed by prejudices (as impossible as that seems).
This week we introduced SafeGrowth planning to Melbourne, Australia. We found limitless opportunities to practice Eyes Wide Open on the downtown streets of that magnificent city: subtle feasts like socks knitted over road barriers (who came up with yarn bombing, anyway?); sublime feasts like personal love locks locked on a pedestrian bridge.
Melbourne's rich array of urban micro-tweaks show up to a much greater extent than most other places I've seen. I suspect it's partly why so many downtown streets buzz day and night.
No doubt crime occurs downtown. We watched cops arrest at least one inebriated troublemaker. Plus three of our SafeGrowth teams are tackling crime and fear issues downtown.
Yet from the library staircase that university students control like protective hens to the graffiti laneways that show up on tourist maps (this is, after all, a city-of-laneways), downtown Melbourne epitomizes the diversity Jacobs so loved on vibrant public streets.
Date: Tues, Feb 22, 2011
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand's second largest city
Time: 12:51 pm
Event: 6.3 magnitude earthquake
Result: 185 dead, thousands injured, $40 billion damage, 80% downtown destroyed
Three years later Christchurch is still rebuilding and recharging. Emerging from the collapsed buildings, destroyed roads, ruined homes and considerable personal loss, the city is making some discoveries.
I spent the past week introducing SafeGrowth in this beautiful country with its magnificent countryside and easygoing people. Four teams from the Phillipstown neighborhood of Christchurch are the first to try it. Yesterday Christchurch TV covered the training in a newsclip.
Turns out they have a few cards up their sleeve.
First, police use Neighborhood Policing Teams throughout the city with experience in CPTED. Clearly there are some progressive police leaders who see their value.
Second they are experimenting with innovations. One is hundreds of temporary shipping containers to house everything from banks and stores to offices and coffee shops. The containers are painted bright colors and positioned in interesting configurations. They are rarely vandalized.
Their ace in hand is an outstanding CPTED planning team. Led by experienced CPTED practitioner Sue Ramsey, they are advised by renowned CPTED architect Frank Stoks. It was from Stoks' doctoral dissertation on rape in Seattle 30 years ago where the Toronto METRAC organization drew many of their survey questions for the famous Women's Safety Audit.
Sue described the work in Christchurch at the 2013 International CPTED Association conference. Christchurch is well positioned to start a whole new SafeGrowth transformation up from the rubble of disaster.
I hate those strips of grass near sidewalks when they are festooned with the foul fecal offering of a wandering canine (I blame mindless dog owners). Too often those strips are neglected, littered and ignored. They detract from neighborhood aesthetics and make it look like no one cares.
This blog has talked about parking lot design, bike trail safety, and redesigned alleys. Yet somehow those odd strips of grass escape our notice.
Technically we're talking about sidewalk buffers called planting strips but they have many names; tree lawns, rights-of-way, boulevards (in Canada), and verges (in the UK). Street ecologists call them planting strip gardens or just sidewalk gardens.
Think about it. If residents can take them over and use them for flowers and food, planting strips become one of the simplest fixes to create local pride.
It's the perfect opportunity to activate a boring or dying street. In CPTED terminology planting strips can extend territorial control by residents into the public domain of their street.
I found some interesting samples in Portland, Oregon recently. Check them out.
GUEST BLOG - A previous blog on LED lighting introduced the concept of blue street lights and emerging research about crime. Ivana Dankova is a designer from Slovakia currently studying for her MSc in Medialogy in Denmark. In 2011 she completed graduate design research in Scotland on Glasgow’s blue light project. Here Ivana offers this blog on her research. A longer version will appear in the upcoming issue of CPTED Perspective, the ICA newsletter.
A new innovation in street lighting has appeared in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1999 blue streetlights were installed in order to improve the overall aesthetics of the area as a part of a city enhancement program. During my design research for a graduate dissertation I investigated whether blue lights have any effect on people and if so, how they affect them.
As with prior research in CPTED, my hypothesis is that the environment in which we live can influence our behavior. It can inspire us to act in certain ways. My Glasgow case study offered the chance to experience the unique atmosphere of a blue-lit street. Some sources mentioned that the crime surprisingly dropped after blue lights were installed. However, since I could not find further statistics on blue lights in Glasgow, I decided to explore it on my own.
Even though crime reduction was not the initial purpose behind the installation, the street appeared to have a much calmer effect than surrounding streets with traditional sodium yellow/orange lighting.
One possible theory explaining this effect is that since short wavelength blue light produces serotonin in the human brain (which is a calming hormone) it is possible this creates a calming impact on pedestrians. My observation is that people react positively to the lighting. The overall atmosphere is unique and feels more peaceful, calm, as if time moved slower.
I also learned following the Glasgow example, similar blue lights were installed in Japanese train stations. The number of suicides at Japanese train stations was high and increasing, but after the blue lights were installed the number dropped noticeably.
This reduction in suicides due to blue lights is spreading to other locations due to its positive results. Blue lights definitely provide a new tactic for designers looking to calm outdoor locations.
Rochester, NY, is one of those places you think vanished from economic prominence when manufacturing moved to low income southern states, or to zero income automated robots. Truth is in the late 19th and early 20th Century, Rochester was one of America's first boomtowns.
Today it still sports some excellent university and medical centers but sadly, like many northern cities around the rust belt, it has struggled with a high crime rate and declining economy.
Rochester's metro population is over a million and it is the second largest urban economy in New York State. Like other places, some neighborhoods are troubled with disorder and drugs.
Look a bit closer, though, and Rochester surprises. Some neighborhoods are emerging as cultural landmarks and quality of life stars. One of those is the Neighborhood of the Arts along University Avenue. Our Rochester SafeGrowth class recently walked a night-time audit here.
Streetscaping and outdoor art is the dominant feature. Sure, along with demographics and prosperity, it is only one ingredient in the crime mix. Still...murals, sculptures, flower planters, and other art plays a significant role. For example, though street lighting wasn't particularly good, it didn't matter. There was a palpable comfort walking here at night. Lone women jogged by us quite relaxed as nearby bar patrons celebrated something or other.
This is a cool area and a great asset. For humanizing the public realm Rochester proves, art matters.
Steven Woolrich is an Alberta CPTED consultant and board member of the International CPTED Association. He is a frequent contributor to SafeGrowth. He currently authors the Target Crime blog linked on LIKEMINDED. This is an excerpt from his upcoming 2012 article for the ICA newsletter CPTED Perspective.
Activity support helps generate more buzz on our streets and can create more interaction between all types of people. Music is certainly a way of generating interest on the street and for me the piano is the ultimate instrument for delivering a great melody. After hearing about street pianos being placed around New York City, I figured why not Red Deer, Alberta.
After speaking with serveral business owners in the area it was decided. The piano would rest in a small alcove outside a local restaurant on Ross Street, the main drag through downtown Red Deer. It was named the Ross Street piano.
Interest in the project grew quickly with several carpenters offering to build a new deck for the piano with building materials being provided by the local Co-op at no cost. The piano was installed on July 28th, 2010 and remained in place until the first part of October. Several City officials played a tune or two, including the Mayor.
In the weeks that followed many local people dropped by to tickle the ivory keys and sing along with others. The piano was there for anyone to use, day or night. Business owners and those playing the instrument would cover it up at night before going home.
The Ross Street Piano will be available again this summer from June through August and will now highlight some local artwork as well. The piano will allow artists to showcase their talents with a new theme each year.
Bureaucratic banality or Mayoral chutzpah? I recently learned about a remarkable urban experiment in Brazil.
Prior blogs discuss beautification and the CPTED strategy called image ("management and maintenance"). While image cannot stop crime, it can trigger positive change.
The town of Celebration illustrates how new urbanists and their form-based zoning take that one step beyond. Sao Paulo has another.
In 2007, Sao Paulo, one of the world's largest cities, instituted a radical experiment in beautification: a ban on unsanctioned, outdoor advertising. No billboards, no posters on buildings, and no brand advertising on busses. It is called the Clean City Law (Lei Cidade Limpa).
Unlikely instigator of the law was conservative mayor Gilberto Kassab. Four years later, in spite of plans to reintroduce a few isolated advertising zones (and unsuccessful legal challenges by the advertising industry), the law is deemed successful.
They have removed 15,000 billboards and levied fines of $8 million for companies violating the new law. In a modern, free-market democracy a city without public advertising is an anathema. Yet, the law remains.
The difference between pointless and consequential in law is whether it works.
True, they are still working to clean up unsightly blank billboards. Sao Paulo remains poor and gang infested. None of that, of course, is what the Clean City Law was about. It was about visual pollution and civic pride in the public realm. Survey's indicate over 70% of Sao Paulo's population love the new law.
Beautification can make a place seem like someone cares. It's a small, consequential step to help residents feel pride in their city. And as we know, a sense of place and pride is the first step in the long journey to neighborhood engagement.
A number of years ago I was asked to write-up a government study on CPTED strategies in US cities. The results were asymmetric. Lacking political gravitas, most cities did little to implement CPTED. Arguably, it seemed like one of the greatest failures of any prevention policy in recent history (three-strikes laws notwithstanding).
I say arguably because failure is a generalization and generalizations can be a cagey thing. For example, the study also revealed some municipalities had taken major steps forward, now described in Atlas's book 21st Century Security and CPTED in a chapter titled "Implementing CPTED".
Interestingly, the government study did show one CPTED strategy proliferated - management and maintenance, what Newman called Image. That was probably because Image emulates planning trends like beautification, streetscaping, and the form-based zoning of new urbanism (a trend now at risk in places like Winter Park, Florida).
Though it cannot stop crime, it can trigger positive change. Beautification is not to be ignored. I recently took photos in San Diego and San Francisco showing how simple beautification can be. Then a Canadian CPTED colleague (and International CPTED Association board member), Steve Woolerich, sent me this fascinating clip of a street piano in his Alberta city. Check it out HERE.
Getting people to use public spaces seems like a lost art. There are many ways to create intriguing public spaces. Water is among the best tool. A family member recently sent me a YouTube of the Dubai fountain, the world's largest.
Musical fountains with dancing waters have been around for many years. The most famous stateside is probably the Bellagio Hotel fountain in Las Vegas, made famous by the film Ocean's Eleven.
Not to be outdone, last year the city of Dubai opened the world's biggest fountain with dancing waters. Copying some of the Bellagio's musical themes, the Dubai fountain shoots water 50 storeys high and uses over 6,000 lights.
It is beautiful to watch. See it below.
The urban fabric of a place is what we see in our daily lives. The details of the physical environment matter. Details make the difference.
I recently visited Tucson, a city in the desert of Arizona with a half million residents. It was a place of residential fences. I've never seen so many. Everyone, it seems, gates their property.
The old pithy saying proclaims; Good fences make good neighbors. I've always thought good neighbors make good neighbors. Too many fences actually make streets ugly. Here, too many streets were corridors of fences.
Yet even in this fence infested city there are ways to beautify. Tucson has some great examples of community branding and neighborhood art, what SafeGrowth calls community culture. Planners know this as placemaking.
One lower income neighborhood marked their entranceway with a decorative entranceway, lined nearby freeway walls with murals, and organized to get funding to build a beautiful park.
In the university area a lively bohemian street was branded with signs and street art. Even at night-time the eye was treated to a warm orange pallate on parking lot walls with what would normally be insufficient low pressure sodium lighting.
The devil is clearly in the details of our urban fabric. Now if only we could get placemaking details into commercial suburban strips.
Every now and then it is worth looking at something old from a completely new playbook; something that gives life to the concept of the creative city.
A friend sent the below YouTube about a stairway in Sweden...a movement predictor with a message. Or, more accurately, a song! It brought to mind that adage taught in urban design schools (at least the good ones) - sensation is the gateway to experience.
As the creative city folk would no doubt remind us, public places need humor.
Here's one way to do it.
Click for the Swedish Stairway