Runnability in Urban Design

In urban planning and policy circles, much is discussed about a community's/metropolitan area's "walkability" and "bike-friendliness." They serve as indices for sustainable, smart economic growth communities. People who live in the sustainable, smart economic growth community will be able to get around easily and cheaply. With easy and cheap transportation, the main idea is that economic activity becomes easier to pursue. Beyond economic development, easy transportation means that people are able to make more connections to things, be it to friends in other neighborhoods, parks, museums, libraries, social activities.

Walkability, the ability to walk safely and conveniently to various destinations no more than say a mile radius (a guess).

Bikeability, the ability to use a medium speed vehicle on the road or side of the road to various destinations within a fifteen-mile radius (a guess).

Within the walkability checklist and the bike ability checklist are concerns about safety, and convenience.

Walkability and bike-friendliness, two concepts which desparately need to be integrated within transportation and development policy and infrastructure implementation if we are not only going to be ecologically-friendly and community-building, but also cost-saving.

However, those two concepts alone do not cover the broad range of transportational activities that can take place on a metropolitan street.

There's a third category that meshes the two concepts of walkability and bike-ability together because it needs elements of both, but it isn't as slow and limited in range as walking, nor is the transportation robust and/or fast enough to be acknowledged as vehicles on the road.

What am I talking about? People on scooters, the skateboarders, the rollerbladers, motor-wheelchaired, runners. Their concerns for safety and convenience should be looked at too!

Faster than walkers, but not quite fast enough for the road or the side of the road/bike lane.

They'll have the same concerns the walkers and bikers have: enough space on the sidewalk, whether or not there's good lighting in any given neighborhood to walk, a lack of debris and surface peculiarities, and if there are slow intersections, and a culture of one-minded fast-moving impatient drivers.

However, they offer a meaningfully distinct viewpoint on the use of sidewalks and streets for transportation. The "meaningfully distinct viewpoint" is expressed in their ability to give a broader overview and feel for the sidewalk connectivity within and between neighborhoods. They are more likely than the regular pedestrian to cover more distance.

What separates my point of view as a long-distance marathon runner from an average pedestrian and/or a biker is that I see more sidewalks on the whole than pedestrian and "feel" them more than a biker. While I can't speak as much about the bike lanes or the immediate safety of the sidewalks, I have a better sense of the type of sidewalk that can connect or disconnect districts, neighborhoods, community areas.

When I trained for the LA Marathon in 2007 and I was living in Silver Lake on Sunset, I knew that I would eventually have to make a long run. For me, that run was from my lil apartment in Silver Lake to UCLA.

A 10.5 mile run to UCLA, and a 10.5 mile run back. No big deal except this is what I face on Sunset before Beverly Glen. Try looking for a sidewalk.

One side.

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Other side.

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For about 100 meters, twice, the sidewalk is overrun by these untrimmed bushes, so essentially there is no sidewalk, leaving me on the road, constantly looking over my back to make sure of my visibility so that a car won't hit me.

Yeah, maybe I shouldn't run that route if I know there's no sidewalk there, but I'd come to expect sidewalks to be there just like any other regular person, I can't help but think if whoever owned the property there would just cut his goddamn bushes, and I like most people like to move in straight lines from point A to point B.

Alternate routes to UCLA on a sidewalk from Sunset are simply inconvenient, impractical, winding road detours that add to unnecessary mileage.

If there's no safe, straight-line road for me as a young, mobile runner, there's definitely no safe road for any pedestrian, and it's likely to be intolerable for a biker.

No runnability, no walkability, no bikeability on Sunset in Beverly Hills - unmaximized economic activity, minimized community connection, minimized people connection.

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