Residents of new subdivisions in Virginia will no longer be able to move into enclaves dominated by an ubiquitous element of suburbia, the cul-de-sac. Commonwealth officials have passed regulations demanding that all new neighborhoods must feature through streets. The regulations also hope to cut down on the strain single-entrance subdivisions place on rural routes as their residents pour out onto them during rush hour, hopelessly clogging some of Virginia’s oldest roads. Furthermore, new subdivisions built under the new rules will come complete with sidewalks and narrow roads, a novelty in suburbia. I could not be happier with these regulations. The demise of the cul-de-sac is necessary to address the problems created by rapid, poorly planned suburban expansion.
My fiancée, a child of the Northern Virginia suburbs, says I am missing the point. Through traffic will make the streets more dangerous for children, she pointed out. That is true. As a child of an urban residential neighborhood, I never got to frolic carefree in the streets. Since I had a yard, though, and parks, and sidewalks to walk on, I didn’t see need to include the streets as part of my Lebensraum. If suburban residents had a safe, pedestrian-dedicated thoroughfare, they would not need to worry about what is going on in the road, though. Traffic in new subdivisions will certainly no longer be local, of course, but I do not believe the new roads will come to resemble freeways, either. Our car-lined, narrow back streets were always quiet, too; motorists could manage no more than 15 mph on them.
Existing Virginia cul-de-sacs are here to stay, of course, so home buyers desiring to live on one will yet be able to find their dream home. By expanding the concept of neighborhoods beyond that of a few houses on an isolated cul-de-sac, residents’ sense of community will expand. They might even get to know people at the end of the block, perhaps, as they go for strolls on their sidewalks. Commute times will be reduced, and perhaps the new design will make it easier to implement mass transit in subdivisions. The changes will make the community in general safer, too, as first responders will reach their destinations faster and municipalities will find it easier to clean up roads after severe weather. Public goods all.
–Michael E. van Landingham