Quick bits with Urban Designer Jeff Speck

Photo by Charlene Belew

When I think about Lawton, I think about the opposite of a “walkable” city. What could we do to make that better?

If you’re going to get people to walk, the walk has to be useful, safe, comfortable and interesting. The real bedrock of that conversation is “the safe.” Cars are going fast, [pedestrians] are very exposed and there are many lanes. So whenever I go to a place, I try to give a presentation on how to accomplish this by walking around and looking around. I take pictures and I talk about the things that I have found. One thing I found here is that a lot of streets have more lanes than cars. Every lane implies a certain amount of traffic and every lane holds a certain amount of traffic. When you have mismatch on certain streets between the amounts of traffic those streets can handle and the amounts they are handling, like by an eight-to-one margin, for example on C Avenue, when you’ve got eight times as much capacity as you have  vehicles, there is an opportunity to take some of that pavement that’s encouraging speeding and to put it to other use. So that’s just one thing.

What got you passionate about walkability?

I was trained as an architect and I thought I would be designing rich peoples’ houses for a living. And then I started doing city planning because I realized that a lot of our [architecture] didn’t really matter because it is all behind six acres of parking lot and so that got me into urban design. In urban design, I realized that regional design was more important than urban design because we live our lives to the scale of the region. If we don’t get the region right, then everyone is driving everywhere. Just as I was figuring that out, I started working at the National Endowment for the Arts where my principle program I was overseeing was with American mayors, called the Mayors Institute on City Design. The term that they used was “walkable,” “is it walkable?” All the things that we call urban design or good urbanism or new urbanism … could be communicated through the single measure of walkability. The walkability thing is a reframing … but we finally found the hook.


The questions and answers in the Q&A occurred during the 20-minute press conference at 4:30 p.m. on March 12 in the Buddy Green Room. The press, which included KSWO Channel 7, The Cameron Collegian and KCCU, took the floor to ask these questions to Jeff Speck.

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