I always get asked the question, “What is New Urbanism exactly?” As I start to explain things like traditional neighborhood design, walkable neighborhoods, places that matter, ending sprawl, etc., people get it. It seems that most people intuitively understand the benefits of all of these things, and the downsides of suburban and exurban developments, but lack the language to really explain it. I recently came across this article, which illustrates just that.
Nowhere does the article mention any of these technical terms that the New Urbanist movement has developed and defined, but people notice these sorts of things that can make the city a desirable place to live. Be that access to talent for small business owners, the ability to walk everywhere you need to go, shorter commutes, there is certain irrefutable logic to living this way. And people notice, whether they can enunciate that or not.
No city is perfect, and Lower Manhattan is certainly not an ideal urban environment by any stretch of the imagination. But there are some real, tangible benefits to be gained from living in cities as opposed to some manufactured “utopia” in the countryside, isolated from the rest of mankind. You don’t need to define these terms or read books and articles on how we should design our built environment (though, by all means, please do, because education is essential to solving these problems in the long run), because at a basic level, it just makes sense to us.