In suburban sprawl, you’re doomed to spending vast amounts of time at the wheel–time you cannot do much else with, and which you won’t get back. The nature of low-density automobile sprawl cities is that everything is insanely far away from everything else, so no matter what you do, you’re doomed to driving vast distances to see most friends, to commute to work and so on.

“We studied neighborhoods ranging in socioeconomic-status and culture. Those built with more activity-supportive environmental features had residents who did more physical activity. For example, transit access is a requirement for living a lifestyle that is less car-dependent and more active because it increases walking to and from the transit facility,” said James Sallis, PhD, lead study investigator and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

“Japan’s population continues to be concentrated in Tokyo,” Ishiba said. “This concentration in the nation’s capital of people, products and wealth is likely the world’s most dangerous situation.”

Transportation experts have repeatedly found that building new roads inevitably encourages more people to drive, which in turn negates any congestion savings—a phenomenon known as “induced demand.”

Not only are people more likely to walk around in cityscapes with open and lively façades, but the kinds of things that they do in such places actually change. They pause, look around and absorb their surroundings while in a pleasant state of positive affect and with a lively, attentive nervous system. Because of these kinds of influences, they actually want to be there. And because of such effects, many cities have carefully designed building codes for new construction that dictate some of the contributing factors to happy and lively façades: in cities such as Stockholm, Melbourne and Amsterdam, building codes specify that new construction cannot simply be parachuted into place. There is a hard lower limit on the number of doorways per unit of sidewalk length, and there are specifications for transparency between the building and street in the form of clear windows with two-way views.

The German city of Hamburg has announced plans to become car-free within the next two decades. It is an ambitious idea, but city officials obviously feel that the personal motorcar does not fulfill a function that walking, biking and taking public transport cannot.

The goal of Hamburg’s project is to replace roads with a “gruenes netz” or a green network of interconnected open areas covering 40% of the city. According to the official website, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, allotments and cemeteries will be connected to form a network, which will allow people to navigate through the city without the use of cars.

I will underline certain characteristics of Japanese zoning that makes it different from North American practices and that I find particularly interesting.

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