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Two adjacent houses, seven miles apart

March 4, 2013

This has had a play on the Tubes:

Two houses, A & B, with a fence between them (map here):

Two houses


But if the inhabitants wanted to get from front door to front door, it would take them seven miles:

Two hosues 2


Now that’s sprawl!  Thanks, Orlando.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2013 11:03 am

    The real problem with this development is lack of density and proximity to shopping etc.

    The design is not a fundamental problem. If there are not already walking paths connecting the two homes, there are green corridors where they could be easily built making walking much much faster than driving between the houses.

    It appears as if one of the main reasons for the design of the subdivision is to retain some of the natural systems for drainage.

    Much better than just bulldozing hills and filling in streams like we did in Vancouver to make the grid.

    The design probably also helps minimize the amount of paved surface. A grid maximizes the amount of pavement per home.

    • Agustin permalink
      March 4, 2013 11:58 am

      “A grid maximizes the amount of pavement per home.”

      How do you figure?

      • Andrew Browne permalink
        March 4, 2013 2:02 pm

        It’s a bit of a simplistic analysis but is often the case – engineers like to compute lineal distance of roadway per unit or house, and it can be the case that grids result in less “yield” (e.g. units). But from a public space point of view it’s not necessarily the case because there are so many variables re: paving treatment, RoW width, etc. I think “maximizes the amount of pavement per house” (as a negative) can be reframed as “maximizes the amount of public space” (as a positive). It doesn’t have to be paved from property line to property line…

      • Agustin permalink
        March 4, 2013 2:57 pm


        Does the calculation count the highways as well, or only pavement that touches a house’s property line?

      • March 5, 2013 3:49 pm

        I like you calling this out, Augustin, and I’d love to see some numbers/formulae. My understanding is that a grid of local-width streets and occasional boulevards would be more efficient than local-width cul-de-sacs + stroad arterials. And the grid would win even more easily if the fire department would let the local streets be thinner.

  2. March 4, 2013 11:57 am

    In Metro Vancouver the connectivity is often not as bad as it looks at first glance, there are often formal (or informal and often muddy) foot paths creating hidden connections. Often all that would be needed to allow people to walk conveniently to the bus stop is half a truck load of gravel to make a decent path (particularly true in Surrey BC).

    • Chris M. permalink
      March 4, 2013 1:17 pm

      There are still lots of private property and fences in the way. Where I live, I am theoretically 300 metres from a major intersection but the road pattern makes the shortest way 700 metres long. If there were connected streets or even gravel pathways, two current bus stops could probably be consolidated into one without affecting walking distances.

      Of course this isn’t nearly as bad as the florida example, which google says would take over 2 hours to walk.

    • Guest permalink
      March 4, 2013 3:30 pm

      If you look at the Florida example, there’s no fence on the yards below the house with the pool so there’s probably an informal access there – and suburban neighbours tend to be more “neighbourly” than their City counterparts.
      Growing up in Nanaimo, we had permission from a couple of houses to cut through their yards to get to the school bus stop (saving about 1 km). We used a gate in the fence connecting their backyards (i.e. a fence does not mean impassable – and planners don’t need to micro-manage every little aspect of every neighbourhood).

    • March 5, 2013 3:46 pm

      Of course, the possiblity of pedestrian connectivity is quite different from encouragement or normalcy of walking. Like skinny sidewalks between arterials and surface parking, your gravel path may not get many users. Especially if the bus stop is still on an unpleasant stroad.

  3. Guest permalink
    March 4, 2013 3:34 pm

    But if the inhabitants wanted to get from front door to front door, it would take them seven miles:

    It is interesting, though, how Gordon is using DRIVING distance in evaluating the neighbourhood plan.

    • Don permalink
      March 4, 2013 5:25 pm

      It’s 7 miles whether you drive, walk or cycle. Not sure how ‘to get’ = ‘by car’.

    • Guest permalink
      March 4, 2013 7:41 pm

      See post above – there may be informal access through neighbours’ yards on foot.

      • Guest permalink
        March 4, 2013 7:44 pm

        i.e – if you are going to the adjacent neightbour’s house for dinner, or a birthday party or pool party, you’d probably walk through the neighbours’ yards rather than walk, drive or cycle the 7 kms on the roads.

  4. Stephen Harris permalink
    March 5, 2013 12:45 am

    There also appears to be at least some pedestrian (and cycle?) connectivity through the open space systems, not only through private yards (which appear to be securely fenced).

    • difromnyc permalink
      March 11, 2013 6:38 am

      There are no walkways or paths. If you want you can google map it – see link here and you’ll find not a formal passage way in sight.

  5. Tim permalink
    March 5, 2013 12:02 pm

    Haven’t they heard of walkways or paths? This is really bad!

  6. Cap'n Bob permalink
    March 12, 2013 9:07 pm

    Just imagine I the person in house A calls the fire department reporting a fire in house B. the fire department may have to make a seven mile second trip to get there!

  7. BryanC permalink
    April 6, 2013 8:41 am

    It is a planning & zoning problem. There are a number of ways to improve this, like my favorite – the Perimeter Rule. The Perimeter Rule is a rule set by the P&Z Board that all new or redeveloped land must follow, where the perimeter of the developed land must either build roads or set aside servitude for future road development. This lends to creating a grid. Go to CPEX ‘dot’ org to learn more.
    It is know that by increasing the number of intersecting roads (creating a grid) the number of vehicle crashes decreases.

  8. Kerry Colvin permalink
    April 9, 2013 12:02 pm

    I am surprised by the folks assuming that neighbors will allow others to walk through their property to access a geographically near location. It has been my experience that creating a passthrough in a small lot size development as shown is virtually impossible. I frequently advocate for this but it seldom makes the first round of public input. I have heard, “…over my dead body…” more than once.

    I think this is the jurisdiction’s responsibility when they review an initial plan. The layout needs to be revised in the beginning to make sure there is adequate circulation for all modes. The developers will make the argument that if we have to do that we can’t build enough houses to make the project feasible. Then, the agency has to decide and therefore holds the responsibilty. However, when the political folks get involved, they sometimes bypass the engineer’s and planner’s authority and responsibility. And so it goes…

  9. April 9, 2013 6:48 pm

    If good fences make good neighbours, these folks must be saints!


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