Sunday, June 30, 2013

CPTED Conference follows historic floods

This blog often ponders a future with eco-friendly, green technologies to create safer communities. Consider anti-graffiti moss, Saint Paul's transit-oriented development, last year's Rio + 20 environment conference and last week's blog on 3rd Generation CPTED.

Given catastrophe's from global warming these past few years, it's remarkable doubters still deny human-created climate change. I suppose some will always bypass science and spin alternate histories of a wishful and more stable past.

Even those riding the wayback machine cannot spin recent weather tragedies like the terrible Calgary floods last week. Like it or not, climate change is here to stay and every profession and community is affected. (Prior to 1990 only 3 disasters in Canadian history topped a half billion dollars in damages. In the past decade alone there have been 9).

It is ironic, yet sad, that next week's International CPTED Association conference will follow the 2013 Alberta Floods. That tragedy saw 100,000 residents evacuated, 4 deaths and $3 billion in damages. Thankfully the floods have subsided and the 2013 ICA conference is proceeding.

Calgary residents have done a remarkable job of recovery. The YouTube below tells their story.

The ICA conference carries the title: Creating Safer Communities - More Than Design. Nowhere is there a better time and place to consider the reality of that title and rethink our urban design and safety options in the years ahead.

Monday, June 24, 2013

3rd Generation CPTED and the eco-friendly city

A new design for wiring public transit stops to the net - New Energy report

At an ICA CPTED conference last year in Mexico City I introduced a paper from the SENSEable City Lab at the famed MIT sent to me just before the conference. It was fascinating. Published through the UN, it is titled; New Energy for Urban Security: Improving Urban Security Through Green Environmental Design. As both a thought piece and a white paper, New Energy is a curious read, especially their ideas for a 3rd Generation CPTED.

To some CPTED traditionalists, 3rd Generation CPTED will be heresy! When Gerry Cleveland and I introduced 2nd Generation CPTED in 1997, with its focus on neighborhood social dynamics, we too were met by gasps or yawns.
"No, no…" gasped those incredulous with what they saw as the imponderable, "That's not CPTED! CPTED is only about physical modifications for reducing crime opportunity."

Yawned others, "We've been doing that all along," (in spite of a lack of data recording where and no published training details on how).


Ever so gently (okay, maybe not so gently at times) we reminded them of the original writings of CPTED, laden with concepts like communities of interest and neighborliness and written by pioneers like Jacobs, Newman, Jeffery, Angel, Wood, and Gardiner. The naysayers parked their gasps and yawns and retreated to the comfort of their target hardened forts to snipe from the ramparts (I admit some bias in this affair).

Dare I say that 2nd Generation CPTED nowadays is a staple in training and practice? (Even if some trainers still mistakenly believe it's just a fancy name for activity support.) Thus is the nature of theory growth!

Now we approach another watershed.

The MIT folks propose integrating eco-sensibilities into CPTED with what they call 3rd Generation CPTED. The gist of their aim is to activate public dead spaces so they are more defensible, but doing so using green technology. "A green and digitally enhanced environmental design that addresses the concerns of cities."

Can't argue with that.

But is that really CPTED (gasp)? Aren't advanced designers already doing that (yawn)? Consider the eco-designs of Portland's City Repair program, founded by the keynote speaker at next week's ICA CPTED conference in Calgary.

Fearful of becoming my own nemesis, I read New Energy with gusto and discovered it was refreshing and exciting. Perhaps having a name for all this work isn't such a bad thing.


The coolest parts in the report are the eco-high-tech solutions: multi-functional and eco-friendly urban furniture that is crime safe; interactive urban art in public spaces to improve perceptions of safety (recall examples from Milan and Minneapolis I posted a few months ago).

Pretty cool stuff. My favorite? Wireless networks across the city made available on street furniture. Imagine video-based, touch screens on transit stops (see photo above) with real-time information on alternate routes during delays or Google Earth safe alternate routes home.

A bit Bladerunner-like…but still, pretty cool.

Interactive public art to activate public spaces - New Energy report

Monday, June 17, 2013

Plan B - TODs in Saint Paul

Simulation of Saint Paul's new Transit Oriented Development light rail

Few CPTED or community development types think about Global Warming or climate change when they do their craft. That is a mistake. Plan B tells us why.

Plan B is an axiom in environmental studies meaning we cannot afford to wait before airborne carbon - a greenhouse gas -  destroys our ability to sustain cities. Global Warming triggers food shortages, diminishing freshwater, extreme weather, and water and air pollution with all the associated illnesses like emphysema or cancer.

Crime matters little if we cannot eat, drink, breathe or walk without fear of some threat to our mortality from the environment. In fact, desperation for those things might trigger more crime (as we saw in New Orleans during Katrina).

Plan B suggests that doing nothing is suicide. Plan B recommends making changes to our urban growth and transportation habits like reducing car dependency. This means Smart Growth planning (after which Safe Growth is fashioned).

Introducing: Transit Oriented Development. TODs are one type of Smart Growth and they may be our future. They connect mixed use high density residential and commercial land uses and then cluster them within a half mile of a transit node, usually light rail. This encourages easy access to transit use at all times of day, high quality pedestrian connections, and amenities like local grocery stores. That reduces car dependency, increases walking, and builds social connections. At least that’s the theory.

The truth is that high urban densities, TODs and Smart Growth neither promotes nor prevents crime. The devil is in the details. Where do people walk and recreate? Do they have local opportunities to know each other as friendly neighbors? How does the design treat lighting and sightlines. And what about security and safety?

Unsafe or unsightly urban design will kill TODs - Photo Seth Budlick
We’re running a SafeGrowth program in Saint Paul, Minnesota (shown in the simulation video above). Participants are working on SafeGrowth plans on that city’s first TOD development, a light rail in a city that does not have one. Safety and security on and near that line will determine the economic success of the system. Success in safety will increase transit ridership, decrease car ridership, and provide one more tiny step to save the planet and our children. A win-win.

Not much pressure! Who said CPTED and SafeGrowth was simple?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Placemaking and civic safety

Winnipeg building mural and frontage - missed opportunity

I get great ideas from friends. Here is one.

Walking around Winnipeg Manitoba this past weekend a friend pointed out the irony of this building mural. The beauty of the former building front on the mural; the sad reality of failed expectations on the actual building front.

The idea of placemaking has made regular appearances on this blog. Placemaking is about creating positive social life in public places. How does one do that?

The fellow who pointed out the irony of the Winnipeg mural was Gerry Cleveland, my colleague and co-creator of 2nd Generation CPTED. Second Generation CPTED promotes placemaking by activating residents, getting them involved, helping them learn how to take action and teaching basic organizing skills. That's the future.