Use The Trick or Treat Test Tonight To Find Good Urban Design

Katrina Wiese/CC BY 2.0

Brent Toderian, former chief planner in Vancouver, Canada, describes the "Trick or Treat" test of urban design in the Huffington Post Canada.

In city planning and design, there's an old saying about the "Trick-or-Treat Test." It's often brought up in the context in suburban home design: Can kids easily find the front door to your house, or must they poke behind the huge multi-car garage, past the parking asphalt, to ring your bell?

A Green Home from KB Homes in Florida/Promo image

He has a really good point. In most subdivisions (this is a new house in Florida) You would never know that there were any kids (or anyone at all) outside. In many cases, the front door is vestigial; people enter through the garage. In this Martha Stewart design, the front hall is used as the dining room.

But as Brent notes, it's much more than where the front door is.

Is your neighbourhood a great place for kids to get a big candy haul on Halloween night? How quickly, easily and safely can kids move from house to house? Do parents actually drive from other communities to yours, because it's a more fruitful candy-collecting location?

He lists the attributes of a community with what he calls "Halloween Door Density."

Great neighbourhoods for trick-or-treating also tend to be great neighborhoods for families everyday:

  • Tree-lined streets designed for walkers more than speeding cars.
  • Enough density and community completeness, to activate what I call "the power of nearness" - everything you need, nearby.
  • Good visual surveillance through doors and stoops, windows (and I don't mean windows in garages), porches and "eyes on the street."
  • Connected, legible streets that let you "read" the neighbourhood easily -grids tend to be good for this, but other patterns work too.

All of these are great for trick-or-treating, and equally great for walkable, healthy, economically resilient communities year-round.

Terrific and timely article. Read the whole thing at the Huffington Post British Columbia

Tags: Holidays | Urban Life | Urban Planning | Vancouver

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