Descend from 40,000 feet into just about any major metropolitan airport in the United States, and patterns of the trajectory of American life over the last century become clearly visible. Old urban cores are etched out in tight grids modeled off a sheet of graph paper. Further out, all those neat lines and right angles begin their curling meander into suburbia. Sparsely populated roads loop through the countryside in an odd geometry designed around the residential real estate dream of post-war America: a cul-de-sac for every family. “I think it’s a missed opportunity when I’m flying and I can’t look out the window and see what the patterns are,” says Norman Garrick, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Connecticut.
Who here hates cul-de-sacs as much as I do? In my experience, they are the enemy of old-house walkable neighborhoods in every possible sense.