The Journey to Strong Towns Annapolis

The Strong Towns Annapolis group was pleased to host a stop on the Strong America Tour on October 10, 2019. We are a small but passionate group of Strong Towns acolytes that are sharing the message in Annapolis, Maryland. While every place is different, I hope sharing the journey we have been on will help inspire others to embark on their own journey to making their place a strong town.

Strong Towns Annapolis Members

The Strong Towns Annapolis group with Chuck Marohn.

I initially came to Strong Towns from the transportation and cycling advocacy world and had never fundamentally understood why our development patterns were so autocentric. The writings of James Howard Kunstler and early Strong Towns pieces, (and gems like the infamous Diverging Diamond Takedown) taught me a new vocabulary to describe and understand this built environment. My aha moment was that much of the way we implement cycling or other non-auto infrastructure is just a band aid on top of a broken development pattern and the only way to affect real change is to address the underlying problem.

In the ten years since, these ideas have had a profound effect on how I view the built environment. Far beyond just the visible transportation issues (once you know, you can never “unsee” STROADS!), Strong Towns has given me an alternative framework under which to consider the growth and development patterns generally and how they affect my local area. With this framework the discussion does not get trapped in the polarizing left/right, conservative/progressive axis of ideas along with their standard ideological tropes. Instead it can focus on the pragmatic, a fiscal productivity axis. This different view has the effect of bringing a wide variety of voices to the discussion that transcend deeply held ideologies. For example in the end what is fiscally productive also turns out to be human scaled and non-autocentric (results progressives hold dear) while simultaneously fiscally prudent (a result conservatives hold dear). This is often a counterintuitive result for both sides. I attended a Curbside Chat a few years ago in Washington DC that was co-sponsored by The American Conservative and The Congress for the New Urbanism. Who other than Strong Towns could pack a room with such ideological divergence?

I try to bring this Strong Towns thought process to the local level, whether it is value per acre analysis for a fast food restaurant special exception, neighborhood connections, street grids or even control issues with historic preservation rules. Writing and speaking publicly and on social media about these ideas and how they affect Annapolis help me refine my thought process as well as engage others in thinking differently about those issues.

Several years ago after writing a few pieces for the Strong Towns site and our local newspaper I was contacted by four other Annapolitans (as we call ourselves), Maca and Jeremy Olsen, Peter Kjeldgaard and McShane Glover, who had see the pieces and reached out to me. We began meeting as an ad hoc group to discuss local issues from a Strong Towns perspective. Soon thereafter an opportunity arose via the Ignite Annapolis talks (5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds each) to give a presentation that could help spread the Strong Towns message. Speaking publicly like this was way outside my comfort zone, but I really wanted to do it to reach a wider audience. I was also concerned that the ideas (and some of the jokes) I would be discussing were not original. Fortunately the group encouraged me to do it through a “standing on the shoulders of giants” argument and the uniqueness of the application of the ideas in a local context. They were a fantastic sounding board as the presentation matured. While there is only one small direct reference to Strong Towns – a customized STROAD slide – you can hear almost every strong towns theme crammed into the 5 minutes. The talk was a really brief – but cheeky – overview but the voices (and jokes) of Charles Marohn, James Howard Kunstler and Andres Duany are very prominent.

My Ignite Annapolis talk that brings the ideas of Strong Towns to a local context.

It was a lot of fun but very challenging to fit more than an overview of the concepts in the ignite format. In reality these issues are multi-faceted and never as simple as snarky platitudes, but it did start a local conversation with a broad audience who does not typically think about these things.

As we continued to discuss issues in our local group and among our friends and professional networks, we really wanted to bring Strong Towns to Annapolis to give a presentation to our city leaders and interested citizens as the next increment in furthering the conversation. The Strong America Tour provided this opportunity and the five of us jumped at it to make it happen. The event was hosted by the five of us with a fantastic attendance that included Mayor Gavin Buckley, two former mayors, city department heads and staff and importantly, a large gathering of  interested citizens. The discussion was lively during the presentation, an Annapolitan trademark, which Chuck joked about being in conflict with the “Minnesota Nice” demeanor he is known for. We also enlisted Old Fox Books a local bookseller to provide copies of Strong Towns, A Bottoms Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity for sale and Chuck to sign. 

Chuck Marohn answers questions about how Strong Towns thinking affects places like Annapolis.

While Annapolis appears to be “booming” to most who live here, it does in fact have many of the same underlying issues as outlined in the talk, although how they manifest in the local context is different and responses to those issues are as individual as the places they exist. It is our hope that there will be a more nuanced discussion of productive development patterns in Annapolis – not just “development” or “no development” as the discussion usually goes here – using tools such as a value per acre analysis, form-based codes, and incremental steps. These are all tools Annapolis can use to address the underlying problems that Strong Towns thinking has uncovered.

I encourage others who have been captivated by the Strong Towns message to learn to apply the ideas to their local context. In quintessential Strong Towns fashion, start with small steps and adjust as you go: form an ad hoc discussion group, write and speak publicly, connect with others to magnify the voice, talk with your local municipal leaders and introduce the ideas of productive growth and creation of real value, create a website/blog. While we are not to this point, consider forming a more formal or non-profit advocacy group. So far, this process has been extremely personally fulfilling and I believe has started to shift the local discussion. In fact, we are now actively discussing things like value per acre analysis in our comprehensive planning process. So get the ball rolling and take that first step today to building a strong town where you live!

Watch Chuck’s presentation in Annapolis and if you are in our local area, please contact us at StrongTownsAnnapolis.org to join in our local conversation.

Chuck Marhon presents Strong Towns, A Bottoms Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity in Annapolis, MD.

2019 Excellent Adventure – Encore Edition

Yep, you read this right: we did it again, an encore to the Excellent Adventure 2019. Since I’m a software guy, I versioned it as Excellent Adventure 2.1.

It was a four day trip around northeastern PA using primarily – but with a LOT of holes – the Delaware & Lehigh and Schuylkill River Trails. That’s what makes these trips fun; if it were all just smooth rail trails without some kind of “deviation” it would just be tedious. This ride was definitely not that. Read on!

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Charles’ and Alex’s Excellent Adventure – 2019 Edition

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4 trails, 3 days, 2 people, 1 excellent adventure! Charles and I just completed our three day bikepacking trip through the Monongahela National Forest from Lewisburg WV (near the Greenbrier Inn) to Deep Creek Lake in MD. It was a fantastic tour of about 210 miles over very remote terrain, mostly rail trails, but some rural chip and seal roads, gravel and finally smooth pavement into DCL. Lots of great industrial history in the area in addition to the riding, which included the gently sloped rail trails and some fairly steep hills that we used to connect the trails. These were very hard with a fairly loaded touring rig. And of course we found local beer at all of our overnight stops, which were not camping… The short version in video form:


For the long version, read on!
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Neighborhood Connections

As the person who is responsible for initiating the requirement 22 in the Central Park findings, it is important for me to explain the rationale for my (I do not speak for the rest of the Planning Commission) behind it. We are tasked with looking at developments in the city ostensibly per the comprehensive plan and the city code. There are numerous references in the 2009 Comprehensive Plan and the city code that give the Planning Commission broad guidance to look at these issues from a big picture standpoint.

Comprehensive Plan pages: 46, 49, 59, 60 and especially this:

9.2 From a regulatory approach, future development projects will be evaluated against their contribution to an area’s transportation performance broadly defined to include safety, transit ridership and cost effectiveness, heavy truck congestion, automobile congestion, bicycle and pedestrian circulation, and the existing nature and purpose of the surrounding road network. The City will develop regulations to implement this provision, which must include ensuring safe facilities for walking and cycling.

City Code: 20.24.120 – Blocks:

C. Pedestrian walkways through blocks not less than ten feet wide shall be required where deemed essential to provide circulation, or access to schools, playgrounds, shopping centers, transportation, and other community facilities.

It is through this lens when reviewing the Central Park development application that we attempted to provide for a non-vehicle connection.

Central Park Development

Non vehicular connection between Central Park Development and Colony Drive outlined in red.

As we all know, Annapolis is a “nook and cranny” kind of town, due in part from our colonial history and the geography of the area. This makes mobility and circulation for all modes of transportation challenging under the best of circumstances. One of the main consequences of these limitations is that most often everyone has to use the same routes whether they are on foot, bicycle, or in a car to everyone’s detriment. In a car going a little extra distance or on a busy road is not typically an issue (other than traffic of course, but that’s a different story), however, for non auto users, this can be inefficient at best or dangerous at worst.

This is also not just my opinion, the effect of lack of connections between neighborhoods is well known in city planning circles and contributes to mobility problems. There was a good article about this on the Strong Towns web site that describes the issues: You Care About the Subdivision Regulations, You Just Don’t Know It (Yet).

The key to success in providing non auto choices for short trips is a safe and efficient network for people on foot and bikes to get to places they want to go. So often we hear from people who would ride a bike a short distance (less than 2 miles which is around most of the city) “I’d be happy to ride my bike, but I don’t feel safe riding on busy roads with vehicle speeds much faster than I ride”.

When you think about this connection, think about the experience on Hilltop. While there is a bike lane, traffic travels considerably faster than an average adult or child riding a bike (ie not the spandex crowd) and that is a deal killer for a large segment of the population. This is especially true when you consider from the perspective of a resident in the new development who might want to make a trip to Eastport or downtown on a bike and would have to make two left turns across traffic on Hilltop v. a low stress route through the back streets. The two left turns are not a problem in a car, but quite the challenge on a bike at most times.

As someone who rides a bike as a primary mode of transportation, I experience this issue daily. However, there are a number of similar connections – some very visible, some known only to a few – that have provided such non-vehicular connections with no adverse effects and are definitely precedents consistent with the Planning Commission’s finding 22. They are:

  1. South Cherry Grove Street connecting the Homewood and Heritage neighborhoods and providing easy access to the south side of Forest Drive.
  2. Cul de Sac on Annapolis Neck Road and Quiet Waters Park Rd. which keeps people off Forest Drive in going from developments on the south side of Forest Drive to Quiet Waters Park.
  3. Shiley Street from the Navy housing on Badger Road to West Annapolis. This allows people easy access to the Naval Academy bridge from West Annapolis without going on MD 450 in addition to being a convenient non auto “short cut”.
  4. McGuckian Street near Ceremony Coffee Roasters provides a safe connection between Homewood and the fields at the Bates Legacy Center/Boys and Girls Club without having to use West Street.
  5. Victor Parkway has experienced no adverse effects after having the gate in the fence opened 6 years ago and the replacement of the fence with bollards last year. This provides a safe and efficient connection between neighborhoods and the Giant grocery store.

This safe, convenient and non vehicle connection from the Central Park development to the rest of Eastport is in the same vein as the ones I have mentioned. As a city, we need to encourage more of these which will benefit everyone.

I can certainly understand the objections of the Colony Hills residents and while there was no additional public testimony, their concerns were heard and what I said during our discussion was “the possibility of any kind of connection in the future goes away when the land is sold and becomes somebody’s property … given this [land] would be owned by the home owners association … it does provide in the future if homeowners association of Central Park and the Colony Hills folks in 25 years decide ‘jeeze I wish I  could walk to see my neighbor’ and they decide mutually they want to do that, they can do that and it’s not walking through somebody’s back yard.” You can watch this part of the exchange with the developer’s attorney here: https://www.facebook.com/CityOfAnnapolis/videos/355182321712459/?t=4802

So nothing beyond the boundaries of the Central Park development will happen as there are other right of way issues, not to mention an existing fence whose ownership is unknown. I believe we are all at some kind of common understanding that provides that capability later if it is mutually acceptable, which is in my opinion a reasonable end.

Charles’ and Alex’s Excellent Adventure – 2018 Edition

A little late here, but before I publish the 2019 Edition, I had to at least get the basics of the 2018 Edition published. I’m not going to publish a lot about the experience because this ride is a well trodden, eh hem, path. However, it did happen to be the wettest spring in recorded history so we experienced at best wet or at worst hard rain the whole time. In brief:

Any readers of this blog – Bueller, Bueller, Bueller – are sure to know I’ve been talking about some long distance bike touring for some time. Finally some motivation, in the form of an email from an ABRT teammate, came along: “Hey, let’s ride from Pittsburgh to DC in 4 days.” Of course without thinking too much, I was IN. We went back and forth on the details but in the end we picked the third weekend in June to do the GAP/C&O.

We ended up riding the roughly 340 miles in 4 days. A bit on the aggressive side (most people do this ride in 5-8 days) with two long days to start, followed by two medium days:

Day 1: Pittsburgh to Confluence – 90 miles (Strava: GAP/C&O day one, Champagne Ride)

Day 2: Confluence to Little Orleans – 104 miles (Strava: GAP/C&O day two, the Little Orleans Shit Show)

Day 3: Little Orleans to Shepherdstown – 73 miles (Strava: GAP/C&O day three, hours of cyclocross mud, yee hah)

Day 4: Shepherdstown to Washington – 77 miles (Strava: GAP/C&O Day 4: A bit less mud 🙂)

It was a fun trip but hard, especially when getting to Little Orleans as there was a massive power outage in the area and 15 Mile Creek was way over its banks which made getting to the lodging and dinner, uh, difficult, thus the name of the Strava ride. But as they say, “What happens in Little Orleans, stays in Little Orleans”.

For a full album of photos see: https://photos.app.goo.gl/3vdfUU61LZHcNh4H9

Ignite Annapolis!

I hope you enjoyed my Ignite Annapolis talk “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. The talk was a really brief – but cheeky – overview of how choices we make in our zoning code and regulations often have unintended results that we really don’t appreciate until much later when we experience the consequences in a very real way. Also, it was a nod to the three people that have had the most influence on my thinking about urbanism: Charles Marohn, James Howard Kunstler and Andres Duany. If you know any of their work, you will hear them loudly in this talk.

It was a lot of fun and I hope it was thought provoking, but very challenging to fit more than a few concepts in the ignite format. In reality these issues are multi faceted and never as simple as snarky platitudes. I’ve created this post as an entrance point to help anyone interested in a deeper understanding of these concepts.

To be explicit, the two main takeaways from the talk are:

  1. Zoning and associated regulations can have unexpected results: this is especially true over the long term and often don’t produce what we want/like such as people oriented places we hold in such high regard in Annapolis.
  2. Change is OK and should even be embraced as long as it’s incremental: we shouldn’t use regulations as a way to fight development because it often results in exactly the opposite effect, more radical change

Perhaps we can add change to the Ben Franklin quote “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The question is how do we accommodate change in a way that is not radical? Fortunately we have hindsight from the last 50+ years to learn from. After building cities in a tried and true organic way for hundreds – really thousands – of years, in the space of a several decades, we changed how cities developed without really understanding the long term consequences. I won’t engage in revisionist history and say that we should have know better than to go “all in” on autocentric development because at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do. The lesson is not what we did but how we did it. Ultimately, we did not do it incrementally in a way that could see whether this was a good idea or not, rather it was radical and untried and that is the take home going forward: we need incremental and sustainable change.

Let’s consider this as the promise of autonomous vehicles revolutionizing transportation is touted. Let’s not make the same mistake again.

You can watch the live stream here (a better quality version on You Tube is forthcoming): I’m the last speaker at 2:16:10, but I highly recommend watching the prior 14!

There are number of concepts related to this and are discussed below with links to further reading for a much deeper dive on the subjects.

Fiscal Productivity

In the talk, I give examples of “walkable urbanism” and “people oriented places” as opposed to “auto oriented places” (Here is an article that describes each). From a qualitative standpoint, they are pleasant areas and that’s why we like them as I discussed, but there is a more fundamental concept behind them: they are fiscally productive. Fiscal productivity is essentially  whether the development style pays for itself. ie does the area produce enough tax revenue to pay for the services consumed over the long term? The latter part – over the long term or the full lifecycle as it’s called – is the key. We have to consider what the costs are not just to build the initial infrastructure, but to maintain it in the long run and it’s not always a simple question. Typically developers put in infrastructure, a one time cost, and turn it over to the government to maintain, a recurring cost – forever. Might not be tomorrow, but in 20 years when the streets need to be repaved or in 30 years when the sewer and water pipes need service.

Read more on why walkable streets are more economically productive.

There are data unequivocally showing that people-oriented streets are more economically productive than auto-oriented streets — from big cities to small towns, from the heartland to the South. The company Urban3 spends much of their time visiting cities and towns across the nation to analyze their tax productivity, comparing how much tax revenue is produced per acre in different areas. What they’ve consistently found is that compact, walkable places produce far more tax value per acre than auto-oriented places—and that holds true in communities across America.

Read more on why density is the wrong metric for fiscal productivity.

Often people read “compact” to mean just add more density. The question often gets ask “what’s the right answer” on density?  There is no right answer because it depends. Ultimately not all growth/development is the same and it requires one “Do The Math” for for your particular place or city to determine what is sustainable. It’s a function of how much the associated infrastructure around a place costs as compared to the tax revenue it produces (public v. private investment).

Read more about fiscal productivity in the #DoTheMath series.

The STROAD

A STROAD is a street/road hybrid and besides being a very dangerous environment (yes, it is ridiculously dangerous to mix high speed highway geometric design with pedestrians, bikers and turning traffic), they are enormously expensive to build and ultimately, financially unproductive. I single it out in the talk and here because it is so fundamental to fiscal productivity concept.

The following is a short video that will help identify STROADs and then convert them to either a productive street or a road:

and a longer version of this given as a TEDx talk:

If we want to build places that are financially productive and pleasant for people, we need to identify and eliminate STROADs. In the talk I pointed out Upper West Street where it transitions to 4 lanes near the Goodwill in a number of slides and Forest Drive which are Annapolis’ primary STROADs.  Once you have the vocabulary to describe these places, you will explicitly see them everywhere. We need to stop devaluing streets that are fiscally productive by making them into STROADs by attempting to chase away traffic congestion with widening projects. This almost never solves the problem because of the concept of induced demand. You build for cars and you will get more cars. You build for people and you get more people.

Incremental Growth

Read more on what incrementalism is.

So often in the context of planning exercises in the city, I hear the term “we have to get it right”. Given the complexity of cities and our lessons from hindsight, it is very risky to believe anyone knows all the right answers and that if they are followed we can predetermine everything perfectly. It’s fine to set a long term vision as we do in our comprehensive plans, but we should take incremental steps to get there. As I mentioned in the talk, smaller steps are not only more palatable for people who are resistant to change, which is coming whether we like it or not, but it’s also a more resilient strategy. If we make missteps, which we inevitably will, we can correct them to minimize their effect. If we make big expensive and expansive changes, the risk is much larger and the mistakes much harder to correct. For example policies like urban renewal had wide ranging effects on cities because they were done at such large increments.

Read more on Incremental Growth in the Power of Growing Incrementally series.

Related Articles I’ve Written

  • The Journey to Strong Towns Annapolis - The Strong Towns Annapolis group was pleased to host a stop on the Strong America Tour on October 10, 2019. We are a small but passionate group of Strong Towns acolytes that are sharing the message in Annapolis, Maryland. While every place is different, I hope sharing the journey we have been on will help […]
  • Neighborhood Connections - As the person who is responsible for initiating the requirement 22 in the Central Park findings, it is important for me to explain the rationale for my (I do not speak for the rest of the Planning Commission) behind it. We are tasked with looking at developments in the city ostensibly per the comprehensive plan and […]
  • Ignite Annapolis! - Supplemental information for my 2019 Ignite Annapolis talk.
  • Forest Drive/Eastport study offers hope for better walkability - Appearing in The Capital, March 9, 2019 The Forest Drive/Eastport Sector Study takes a small step in the right direction towards a more satisfying future. It is not a plan but it is a hope, a strategic hope. And one must hope and envision in order to get anywhere. We need to accept the study […]
  • Forest Drive/Eastport Sector Study - The City of Annapolis Forest Drive/Eastport Sector Study, one of the “neighborhood” plans that rolls up in the city comprehensive plan is in full swing. There were a number of public meetings which I attended and a variety of presentations and work sessions with the Planning Commission, some of which I have also attended. My […]
  • A new way to look at development and planning with Alex Pline (E-66) - After all the ranker about local development projects during the election, I asked John and Tim of The Maryland Crabs Podcast if they’d be interested in having me on to talk about development. Much of the discussion focuses on who can say NO the loudest. Ultimately it’s disingenuous to just talk about yes or no on […]
  • Can Art and Historic Preservation Coexist? - A version of this article When Public Art and Historic Preservation Clash appeared at Strong Towns on May 24, 2017. Annapolis is the historic capital city of Maryland and harks back to the Colonial days of the United States. The city’s core contains a lot of the historic fabric from the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s including […]
  • Anne Arundel can escape its growth Ponzi scheme - Appearing in The Capital, September 18, 2016 Anne Arundel County has been fortunate over the years to have steady economic opportunities, due in part to our location near large metropolitan areas as well as a strong federal and state job base. These economic opportunities, along with a rich history, quaint historic areas and miles of […]
  • The Kobayashi Maru Test - Last night, the Annapolis Planning Commission faced their Kobayashi Maru test. How will they decide whether access to the Rocky Gorge planned development is via Aris T Allen Boulevard or Yawl Rd: place the lives of Rocky Gorge residents in grave danger by turning off and on a highway or assuring the destruction of the Oxford Landing neighborhood […]
  • Raising the Interest and Reducing the Concern - Contemporary cycling in the United States is largely viewed by the public as a recreational endeavor. However, it was not always this way. For distances greater than that easily covered on foot, bicycles were the preferred mode of local transportation prior to the early 1900s when the automobile came into wider use. During the next […]
  • On Paint and Historic Preservation - The heat is increasing in the dispute between the City of Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission and property owners/artists in the”Arts District” (inner West Street). Good background can be found in articles in The Capital here, here and here. I am certainly not against historic preservation and it has been good for the city, but when […]
  • Why I Ride A Bike - A shorter version also appeared as an Op Ed column in The Capital on May 11, 2016. Let me get this out of the way: I am a bike guy. I love bikes, all kinds – transportation bikes, off road bikes, racing bikes and classic bikes. But that’s not why I ride a bike for […]
  • Does West Street Need a Taco Bell? - In July of 2014 The Capital published an article about a possible land swap between the City and a property owner in exchange for some land to reconfigure the Chinquapin/West/Admiral intersections. One aspect of that was the possible addition of a Taco Bell drive-thru restaurant at the site of the old Whiskey. I wrote about that […]
  • Traditional Street Grids are the Answer For Future Growth In Annapolis - One of the most acknowledged problems in the Annapolis area is our congested “corridors” because they provide the only way in and out of various areas in the City and surrounding parts of the County. If there is a closure, mayhem ensues. In addition, these roads – really STROADS now – are terrible for everyone: drivers, […]
  • Strong Towns Challenge: Walk to the Grocery Store - I live in the Annapolis Maryland the historic capital of the state, one of two incorporated areas in Anne Arundel County. The historic city proper is about 40,000 people, a very small town compared to the neighboring Baltimore and Washington DC, which is essentially infilling into a single mega metropolis. Through a series of good […]
  • Guest Column: Thoughts on outer West Street development - Appearing in The Capital, July 28, 2014 While the Chinquapin Round Road, West Street, Admiral Drive intersection needs to be reconfigured for sure, what I am worried about is the drive-through restaurant development discussed in a recent article. This kind of auto-centric development will continue to reinforce the “highway” nature of outer West Street. This […]

Forest Drive/Eastport study offers hope for better walkability

Appearing in The Capital, March 9, 2019

The Forest Drive/Eastport Sector Study takes a small step in the right direction towards a more satisfying future. It is not a plan but it is a hope, a strategic hope. And one must hope and envision in order to get anywhere.

We need to accept the study and keep going.

The Sector Study does accomplish, among other useful things, a vision. It does this by taking what might seem a radical perspective, and that is the perspective of a person walking from one place to another. Why is this important?

Virtually every trip begins with pedestrian infrastructure, whether you are walking or using a wheelchair. People like to walk and ride bikes. You can see this in small and large cities around the country including the older neighborhoods right here in Annapolis.

There are several main factors that affect walkability: efficiency, interest and comfort. Trips have to be close, the path has to be interesting, and people need to feel safe and comfortable. People will typically walk a quarter to a half mile such as around downtown, West Street, Eastport, and West Annapolis because it’s pleasant, interesting and often easier than driving. Biking for transportation is pretty much the same except the distances you can cover are about five times longer, up to two miles for the average person.

But if the trip is interrupted by unsafe or uncomfortable spots with no easy alternatives, walking ceases to be an option.

Unfortunately, this is the situation along the Forest Drive corridor, a typical autocentric pattern where businesses are separated by long distances and the only connection between them is on a sidewalk six inches from 50mph traffic. This environment is hostile outside of a car, so everyone drives even if going between two neighboring businesses.

Furthermore, as we’ve seen areas where we attempt to mix fast traffic and commercial activity, the combination ultimately devalues the land resulting in ugly strip malls.

The area is this way because we’ve made it this way based on the zoning and autocentric requirements we’ve had in place for a long time. Band-Aid solutions such as adding a sidewalk or a multiuse path to the side of Forest Drive are not reasonable as they don’t fundamentally address the conditions that enable people to want to walk or bike.

The vision outlined in the sector study is the first step in addressing these problems. It suggests changing the existing character of specific areas to be more people oriented by having a pattern that is mixed-use and human-scaled, which is shorthand for “things are not far apart and it’s pleasant and efficient to get around outside of a car.”

If we have places like that, we have a real chance to move between them without requiring a car trip. It could be walking or biking or even some kind of specialized transit, like entrepreneurial, privately owned shuttles.

Of course, the area will still accommodate cars for people who need to drive and we will always have significant traffic on Forest Drive given it’s the only major road and the number of people who commute in and out of the city.

But walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods that are efficiently and pleasantly connected with the rest of the city will cut down on local car trips and provide options for people who don’t drive.

As mentioned in the study, under current law there is significant capacity for development now. Stopping the study does not stop development, it just gets us more of the same, which is clearly not working. A popular opinion I’ve heard at public meetings is we have to fix all the infrastructure before we do anything else.

That view assumes the status quo, doubling down on an untenable path. At the very least, the vision of the study moves in a direction away from the autocentric policies of the past.

Alex Pline is a member of the Annapolis Planning Commission. This editorial is his opinion and does not represent the opinion of the Commission.