Plumb Lines

May 21, 2009

Newgeography Same as the Old Geography

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 3:05 pm

It has become clear that is a broadly anti-urbanist site. This bizarre post is a mixture of inventions and distortions of “Smart Growth and New Urbanism.” Exhaustively cataloguing its fallacies would be time-consuming and hopefully unnecessary. Some of the highlights:

Smart Growth planners advocate short blocks in a grid pattern to distribute traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) evenly within a development. These short blocks produce a multitude of 4-way intersections, and add a multitude of those trendy “turnabouts,” to make a bland site plan look more interesting.

I am actually unsure what he’s getting at here. I have no idea what a turnabout is, or how they could make bland site plans look more interesting.

To make matters worse, the majority of vehicular vs. pedestrian accidents occur at intersections. Smart Growth designs have many more intersections than conventional suburban plans . Even more dangerous, Smart Growth walkways are placed close to the where the cars turns.

So, pedestrians would be best served if all our roads were highways? This might have been written by le Corbusier (though he would have written it more felicitously).

Nobody can argue against the character of a tree-lined street… no one, that is, except the city Public Works department that must maintain structures being destroyed by trees growing in close confines to concrete walks and curbs. Smart Growth/New Urbanist compact front yard spaces are typically 10 feet or less. This simply cannot provide for enough room for tree growth when there is a 4’ wide walk typically a few feet away from the curb, the area where street trees grow. Without trees to define the street, these solutions have very little organic life to offset the vast volume of paving in front of each porch.

Is he seriously suggesting that New Urbanists are opposed to trees?

Not all of’s posts have been equally absurd, but the site certainly does seem to have an agenda, and not a good one.

David Schaengold



  1. I agree. It is an odd mix of interesting metropolitan discussion and suburban/car apologia. I just ignore the Wendell Cox stuff at this point.

    Comment by David M — May 21, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

  2. That’s a good description. The site suckers you in with its hip minimalist design. I’m used to the anti-urbanists ranting in basic html.

    Comment by David Schaengold — May 21, 2009 @ 10:47 pm

  3. I was glad to come across your rebuttal post! I was really puzzled by his “pedestrians vs. intersections” argument.

    I do believe a “turnabout” is a traffic circle…typically called a “roundabout” in the UK. Frankly, I can’t remember having seen any in a US city except a few in Washington DC…which were designed long before New Urbanism came along. They’re used more (at least in Maryland) in the suburbs.

    Comment by Carol Ott — May 22, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  4. I thought that’s what he might have meant. Haven’t ever heard the term ‘turnabout,’ though.

    Comment by David Schaengold — May 22, 2009 @ 10:41 am

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