The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?

By Mike Jenks; Elizabeth Burton et al. | Go to book overview
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Mayer Hillman

In Favour of the Compact City


The growing geographical spread of patterns of activity this century, accelerating at an alarming rate in the last few decades, reflects both the effects of the wider ownership of motor vehicles and planning changes interacting with this. It reflects too public perceptions of accessible catchments: within the time people are prepared to devote to travel, those with their own form of motorised transport have been able to choose more distant locations than was previously possible when choice was limited to non-motorised modes, in combination with public transport. And commerce and industry have been able to increase the size of their individual outlets whilst reducing their number, in order to achieve internal economies of scale and, in the process, extending not only their own patterns of transport activity areally but also those of their customers.

Most of these newly adopted patterns, particularly in suburban, urban fringe and rural locations, are car- and lorry-dependent, and cannot realistically be served by bus or rail. They are largely antithetical to such concepts as self-sufficiency and containment, energy efficiency and community enterprise. Indeed, it is almost as if there has been a conspiracy to curtail options for making the transition to sustainable activity patterns and lifestyles.

Half a century ago in the UK, passenger mileage by bus was twice that by car, whereas now passenger mileage by car is 14 times that by bus. Cycle mileage, which exceeded car mileage then, is now exceeded by it, by a factor of 75. And though there is no record of changes in the extent of mileage on foot during this same period, over the last 20 years alone, it has fallen from 40% to 30% of all journeys. Furthermore the transport sector currently accounts for a third of all primary energy consumption, and this figure is rising at an alarming rate.

Damaging outcomes

The rise in car ownership and use, steady decline in walking and cycling, and poorer public transport services have led to a worsening of the situation in respect


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The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?
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