Within Walking Distance
6 x 9
60 photos, 10 illustrations
For five thousand years, human settlements were nearly always compact places. Everything a person needed on a regular basis lay within walking distance. But then the great project of the twentieth century—sorting people, businesses, and activities into separate zones, scattered across vast metropolises—took hold, exacting its toll on human health, natural resources, and the climate. Living where things were beyond walking distance ultimately became, for many people, a recipe for frustration. As a result, many Americans have begun seeking compact, walkable communities or looking for ways to make their current neighborhood better connected, more self-sufficient, and more pleasurable.
In Within Walking Distance, journalist and urban critic Philip Langdon looks at why and how Americans are shifting toward a more human-scale way of building and living. He shows how people are creating, improving, and caring for walkable communities. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Starting conditions differ radically, as do the attitudes and interests of residents. To draw the most important lessons, Langdon spent time in six communities that differ in size, history, wealth, diversity, and education, yet share crucial traits: compactness, a mix of uses and activities, and human scale. The six are Center City Philadelphia; the East Rock section of New Haven, Connecticut; Brattleboro, Vermont; the Little Village section of Chicago; the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; and the Cotton District in Starkville, Mississippi. In these communities, Langdon examines safe, comfortable streets; sociable sidewalks; how buildings connect to the public realm; bicycling; public transportation; and incorporation of nature and parks into city or town life. In all these varied settings, he pays special attention to a vital ingredient: local commitment.
To improve conditions and opportunities for everyone, Langdon argues that places where the best of life is within walking distance ought to be at the core of our thinking. This book is for anyone who wants to understand what can be done to build, rebuild, or improve a community while retaining the things that make it distinctive.
"Hard to put down...the book is so rich in detail that I learned something useful or remarkable on nearly every page. Langdon is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable writers on urbanism today...The new urban era is upon us and Within Walking Distance may be the best guidebook to explore how people and places are making this period a reality."
"Talks convincingly about changes our cities and neighborhoods are going through...The stories are important, because they help us see that nothing is predetermined."
"Within Walking Distance shines...a warm, personal, and heartening depiction of our power to shape our communities in a positive way when we set our minds to it."
"Provocative...Langdon helps to unravel the mystery [of walkability]."
"Intriguing...[Langdon] is a clear and insightful writer, has been exploring these topics for decades, and knows of what he speaks."
"Makes the impassioned and convincing case that a place's walkability can serve as a catalyst for community."
"Langdon examines the ingredients that create a safe, healthy, and vibrant community. While income levels may vary, community engagement, access to schools, transportation, healthcare, and retail strips are necessary factors for thriving neighborhoods. This work is a significant contribution to the literature on the diverse urban American tapestry. Langdon accurately conveys the struggles of neighborhoods seeking to remain a mainstay of this urbanism."
Jesús ?Chuy? García, Cook County Commissioner
"With a Jane Jacobs-like eye for closely observing the workings of a neighborhood, Langdon explores why our experience of community life is so much richer in places that are laid out at a pedestrian scale. Through the stories of six communities, he shows the particular power that walkable neighborhoods have to inspire people to act for the common good. Along the way, Langdon examines how these neighborhoods came into being and the exciting things their residents are doing to improve them."
Stacy Mitchell, Codirector of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and author of "Big-Box Swindle"
"In Within Walking Distance, Phil Langdon has given voice to the everyday people working to build vibrant, walkable places in their own communities. With rich storytelling backed by extensive research, he spotlights the incremental victories that are essential to creating places people love. Within Walking Distance is a human-scale book about human-scale solutions—for downtowns, neighborhoods, suburbs, and everywhere in between."
Lynn Richards, President and CEO, the Congress for the New Urbanism
"Philip Langdon has pulled together his thirty years of experience and wisdom in a compelling book about the incremental, organic approach to walkable urban vitality. At many levels of intensity, from Center City Philadelphia to small Stakville, Mississippi, Langdon has provided case studies of how walkable vitality has been successfully created and, just as importantly, sometimes has fallen backward. In addition, noted New Urban architect Dhiru Thadani has contributed charming drawings knitting the book into an integrated whole."
Christopher B. Leinberger, Charles Bendit Distinguished Scholar and Research Professor of Urban Real Estate
Chapter 1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chapter 2. New Haven, Connecticut
Chapter 3. Brattleboro, Vermont
Chapter 4. Chicago’s Little Village
Chapter 5. Portland, Oregon
Chapter 6. Starkville, Mississippi
Noted author, Philip Langdon, will speak about the revival in walkable places and his new book, Within Walking Distance: Creating Liveable Communities For All. Inquirer architecture critic, Inga Saffron, will lead the Q&A after Phil's talk. Phil's book closely examines six communities --including Philadelphia.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM EDT
The Continental Midtown (rooftop lounge)
1801 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
When: Wednesday, September 27, 2017 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Description: Author of several previous books, Phil has written about design, planning, and community for many national periodicals, including The Atlantic, New Urban News, Landscape Architecture, and Planning magazine.
Journalist and urban critic Phil Langdon shows how people are creating, improving, and caring for walkable communities such as New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood—places where residents can walk or bike in just a few minutes to cafes, grocery stores, laundries, schools, park
Contact: Seth Godfrey 203 946 8130 ext 211
CNUDC invites you to an evening lecture and networking event with author Philip Langdon. Langdon has been writing about urban issues for over 30 years. Topics range from Kentlands to McDonalds. Langdon's latest book, Within Walking Distance, looks at how buildings connect to the public realm; bicycling; public transportation; and incorporation of nature and parks into city or town life. Langdon stresses that a strong local commitment is the vital ingredient to successful placemaking. Langdon’s presentation examines how places where the best of life is within walking distance ought to be at the core of our urban thinking.
This event if free of charge. Room limitations apply.
In Within Walking Distance, journalist and urban critic Philip Langdon takes an in-depth look at six walkable communities—and the citizens, public officials, and planners who are making them satisfying places to live. Langdon has been called "one of the most experienced and knowledgeable writers on urbanism today" and his book is "hard to put down" (Public Square). In the book, Langdon explores walkable communities around the country that range in terms of size, history, wealth, education, and more. The six communities are: Center City Philadelphia; the East Rock section of New Haven, Connecticut; Brattleboro, Vermont; the Little Village section of Chicago; the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon; and the Cotton District in Starkville, Mississippi. From the experience of these places, Langdon draws lessons that can be applied to a range of communities across the nation.
One of these lessons is the importance of local commitment. With the careful observation of a seasoned journalist, Langdon gives voice to stories of citizens coming together to improve their communities, including fifteen mothers and grandmothers pitching tents and conducting a hunger strike to force the Chicago Board of Education to build a much-needed high school in their predominantly Mexican-American community and residents of the only Zip code in Philadelphia that had no public green space banding together to build a park through volunteer labor.
Check out an excerpt of the book below, and then pick up the e-book for just $14.99, this month only.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
Summer is here! Whether that means slathering on the sunscreen or seeking refuge from the heat in an air conditioned room, this season means one thing for all bookworms: summer reading lists. To help get yours started, our staff have shared their favorite Island Press books, past and present. Check out our recommendations, and share your favorite Island Press summer read in the comments below.
In Nature's Allies, Larry Nielson shares eight riveting biographies of great conservationists. His profiles show how these diverse leaders—including a Native American who was arrested more than 50 times and the first African woman and environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize—brought about extraordinary change for the environment. These stories are powerful, engaging reads for anyone who wants to be inspired to make a difference. But you don't have to take Island Press' word for it...Nature's Allies was also recently recommended as a New York Public Library staff pick.
In this remarkable blend of history, science, and personal observation, acclaimed author Wade Davis tells the story of America’s Nile, how it once flowed freely and how human intervention has left it near exhaustion. A beautifully told story of historical adventue and natural beauty, River Notes is a fascinating journey down the river and through mankind's complicated and destructive relationship with one of its greatest natural resources. Kyler Geoffroy, Online Marketing Manager of the Urban Resilience Project, says this book is the perfect summer read because "we need to stop and appreciate America’s most iconic waterway now more than ever."
As Vice President and Executive Editor Heather Boyer says, "there's no better time than summer to think about how to maintain the increase in interest in urban biking (and try to retain any funding for it in infrastructure budget)." A follow-up to his "fascinating" Roads Were Not Built for Cars, Bike Boom picks up where that story left off: immersing readers in cycling advocacy from 1906 to the doldrums of the 1980s. It is an extensively researched, at times humorous journey through time, flush with optimism for what could be the next, greatest bike boom of all.
Bugs and germs are big problems—and they’re evolving. But in the fight to protect our food and health, bugs and germs may also be part of the solution. Natural Defense by Emily Monosson is the first book to bring readers into this exciting new world, highlighting cutting-edge solutions such as pheromones that send crop-destroying moths into a misguided sexual frenzy, and proteins that promise targed destruction of infectious bacteria. Brooke Borel, contributing editor at Popular Science had this to say about the book: "With deft prose and fascinating anecdotes, Monosson’s survey of the latest scientific research leaves us in awe of humankind’s ingenuity."
If summer is the time for exploring neighborhood creeks and streams, Immersion by Abbie Gascho Landis is the summer read for you. A breathtaking journey into the world of freshwater mussels, Immersion explores the hidden lives of mussels in our rivers and streams, and asks whether our capacity to love these alien creatures can power us to protect freshwater for humans and nature alike. Blending science with artful storytelling, Immersion takes readers from perilous river surveys and dry riverbeds to laboratories where endangered mussels are raised one precious life at a time. Production Assistant Elise Ricotta says this is the perfect book to read at the beach or lake.
Associate Editor and Rights Manager Rebecca Bright picked up Seeking the Sacred Raven while she was preparing for an interview to intern at Island Press (we won't say how many years ago). The book tells the story of Hawaii's 'Alla, a member of the raven family that once flourished on the islands and now survives only in captivity. Mark Jerome Walters chronicles the history of the birds' interactions with humans throughout the centuries, painting a picture of one species' decline that resonates today, as many others face the same fate. The first Island Press book she ever read, Rebecca found the book to be "both fascinating and heartbreaking."
As you fire up the grill for summer barbeques and head to your local farmer's market, consider reading Kitchen Literacy by Ann Vileisis, a sensory-rich journey through two hundred years of making dinner. From eighteenth-century gardens and historic cookbooks to calculated advertising campaigns and sleek supermarket aisles, Vileisis chronicles profound changes in how Americans have shopped, cooked, and thought about their food for five generations. Revealing how knowledge of our food has been lost and how it might now be regained, Kitchen Literacy promises to make us think differently about what we eat.
Water is for Fighting Over by John Fleck makes for perfect reading while sitting by the pool, river, or ocean. In it, he offers a unique, fresh perspective on the catastrophe narrative of the West, showcasing how this region is less of a battlefield and more of a place where individuals and communities find common ground amid a changing geography. This book shows that even in the depths of the worst droughts, positive solution stories can still be found. Vice President and Director of Marketing & Sales Julie Marshall likes "John’s thoughtful and balanced approach to the issue. I also really appreciate the fact he has such deep knowledge based on his many years covering the issues in the west. It gives him great credibility but also makes his explanations of the issues and solutions seem solid based on 'all the facts' and not just a superficial assessment."
While walking around and enjoying the summer sunshine, don't forget to pack Within Walking Distance by Philip Langdon. In it, he takes an in-depth look at six walkable communities—and the citizens, public officials, and planners who are making them satisfying places to live. Civil Engineering said "Within Walking Distance shines...a warm, personal, and heartening depiction of our power to shape our communities in a positive way when we set our minds to it."
Hungry for adventure? Tibet Wild is George B. Schaller's account of three decades of exploration in the most remote stretches of Tibet: the wide, sweeping rangelands of the Chang Tang and the hidden canyons and plunging ravines of the southeastern forests. Throughout, it is an intimate journey through the changing wilderness of Tibet, guided by the careful gaze and unwavering passion of a life-long naturalist. Editor Courtney Lix loves the book because "it transports you to the wildest regions in Tibet, from describing the daily challenges of being a field biologist, to admiring breathtaking landscapes, and encounters with rare and beautiful creatures."
What are your top Island Press reads? Share them below, so others can add them to their summer reading lists.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
We asked Island Press authors to reflect on the idea of Trump Forest and offer their own suggestions for offsetting the damaging effects of the Trump administration. Their ideas—from Twitter-based fundraising to more walkable neighborhoods—are below. Have your own creative idea? Share it in the comments.
How about the Trump Military-Industrial Parks Funding Bill: for every dollar that the Trump administration's EPA saves for corporate polluters, a dollar is transferred from the budget for Defense Department and applied to funding for National Parks.
—Emily Monosson, Natural Defense
Planting trees for—or, more accurately, against—Trump and his policies is a great idea. We know that it’s not going to solve the problem of climate change, although every tree helps a little, and if we plant enough trees they will have a significant effect. But, perhaps just as important in the short term, every little gesture against the awful Donald contributes to the tide of protest by millions of people saying “we will not accept the attitudes of this president and we will not go along with his agenda."
I suggest creating an online platform where everyone who voted for Hillary (all 68 million of them) can sign up and pledge to give 1 cent—which would be automatically deducted from their bank accounts (if they have one)—every time Trump tweets. This money would then go to combating climate change denial organizations/agendas, which are (demonstrably) incredibly well-funded.
If even half of everyone who voted for Hillary did this, we could generate $3.4 million in one day alone. (34 million votes equals 34 million cents multiplied by 10—the amount of times he tweets daily, on average.) The environmental cause he donates to could change every day. Even changing the monetary amount to half or a quarter of a cent for every tweet would still generate a lot of money.”
—Michael Carolan, No One Eats Alone
The best way to offset the environmental impacts of the Trump administration is to advance smart policy at the state level and be prepared to do the same at the federal level once Trump leaves office… or if he changes his mind while in office! I am very worried that the GOP’s “Obamacare repeal” moment will be repeated in climate policy in a few years, and I speak from experience: 2016’s pioneering I-732 carbon tax ballot measure campaign in Washington State (which I founded and co-chaired) lost in part because of opposition from the “environmental left,” including the Sierra Club and Washington Conservation Voters. The same dynamic played out in California earlier this year, with the Sierra Club and 350.org opposing the extension of California’s cap-and-trade system.
And you can watch it happening again in Washington State as the groups that splintered with the grassroots I-732 campaign are now splintering with each other about a 2018 ballot measure. So: If you’re on the right side of the political spectrum then there’s lots of work to do getting conservatives to pay attention to the risks of climate change (Bob Inglis and his compatriots at RepublicEn are one great resource), and if you’re on the left, well, as the Washington Post editorial board put it, “The left’s opposition to a carbon tax shows there’s something deeply wrong with the left.” Fix it.
—Yoram Bauman, Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change
A good place to plant many of those trees is along the streets of America’s cities, towns, and villages. It’s been shown again and again that a canopy of street trees can significantly lower the air temperature of a block or a neighborhood or a larger area during the height of summer. That makes for more comfortable living. It reduces the need for air conditioning. It encourages people to walk or bike to nearby destinations rather than drive a car. Moreover, street trees make a place more beautiful. They persuade people—at least some people—that living in a somewhat dense neighborhood is not a sacrifice—it’s an advantage.
Along with planting trees, we should put more emphasis on making the street network safer for pedestrians. Especially important is what happens at intersections, the most dangerous parts of the street network. Some intersections need to be narrowed, to get motorists to slow down and to reduce the distance that pedestrians have to cross. On long or especially busy blocks, segments of the planter strips could be extended into the street, causing vehicles to move at a more reasonable speed and helping people to cross the street safely.
Follow examples from cities like Portland, Oregon, where centers of many neighborhood intersections have been planted, moderating the speeds on residential streets. In front of some neighborhood shops, encourage merchants to create patios where people can come together, eat and drink, and get to know one another. On Orange Street in the East Rock section of New Haven, Connecticut, where small stores are interspersed among houses and apartment buildings, patios of this sort have been created, giving the neighborhood a more congenial atmosphere than previously existed.
Making a greener, more beautiful, more sociable environment benefits people in many different ways.
—Phil Langdon, Within Walking Distance
There's no lack necessary actions we can take. But where to start? Or perhaps better asked: How can I channel my outrage into something that's constructive but also as satisfying as ripping out part of my sink? (After all, outrage is an itch best scratched soon lest you turn into a humorless crank.)
Seed-bombing Trump golf courses with wildflowers and edibles immediately comes to mind, though admittedly that ranks high on "satisfying" and not much else. Punching literal Nazis on the street is constructive, in a way, though it's not a skill I currently possess. Keeping up with my curated Twitter roster of political and environmental experts is more important than it sometimes feels (especially when the underrated Sarah Kendzior has a new post) but it's also far from satisfying.
Of course, anything that makes a whit of difference is generally going to be neither easy nor quick. Meaningful changes take time, time spent in setting intention, executing action, and curating results. I think this holds true whether you're raising a garden, starting an activist organization, or making a footprint-reducing lifestyle change.
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.
This Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun for Island Press authors to share the love. We asked a few authors to choose their favorite Island Press book—other than their own, of course—and explain what makes it so special. Check out their responses below, and use code 4MAGICAL for 25% off and free shipping all of the books below, as well as books from participating authors.
What’s your favorite Island Press book? Share your answer in the comments.
My favorite IP book—not that I’ve read them all—is Mike Lydon’s Tactical Urbanism. This book shows how ad hoc interventions can improve the public realm, especially if they’re later made permanent. I discussed the concept on the latest Spokesmen podcast with architect Jason Fertig and illustrator Bekka “Bikeyface” Wright, both of Boston.
Last year I wrote a cover story for SIERRA magazine about how Donald Trump's proposed wall along the US-Mexico border would all but eliminate any chance for recovering jaguar species in the Southwest. In the course of my research I came across Alan Rabinowitz's An Indomitable Beast. It's a great read, blending Rabinowitz's own experiences as a big cat biologist with cutting-edge findings on this amazing species. As a writer, this book and its amazing details helped me bring the jaguar to life for readers.
This day is a time for reaching beyond data and logic to think about deeper ways of knowing. Love, specifically, but I would add to that faith, tradition and ethics. That's why I love Aaron Wolf's new book, The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Conflict. Going beyond the mechanical "rationality" of the typical public meeting is necessary if we are to address the big issues of global sustainability and the smaller issues of how we sustain our local communities. Aaron Wolf provides the experience, tools and promise of a better, deeper approach.
Like many others, I am indebted to to Island Press for not one but three books that profoundly influenced my thinking. Panarchy (2001, edited by Lance Gunderson and C.S. Holling) introduced me to the concept of socio-ecological systems resilience. Resilience Thinking (2006, by Brian Walker and David Salt) taught me what systems resilience really means. And the follow-up book Resilience Practice (2012) helped me start to understand how systems resilience actually works. The latter remains the most-consulted book on my shelf—by Island Press or any other publisher—and I was thrilled and frankly humbled when Brian and David agreed to write a chapter for our own contribution to the field, The Community Resilience Reader (2017).
"A large percentage of my urbanism bookshelf is comprised of Island Press books, so it's very difficult to share my love for just one! So, I won't because the books we pull of the shelf most often these days are the NACTO Design Guides. Finally, a near complete set of highly usable and mutually supportive design standards that help us advocate for and build better streets, better places."
Nicols Fox's Against the Machine is a book that’s becomes more relevant each year as technology impinges ever further on our daily lives. It’s a fascinating, deeply researched look at how and why people have resisted being treated as extensions of machines.
Lake Effect by Nancy Nichols. I read this book several years ago. It is so important to hear the voices of those whose lives are impacted by industrial age pollutants, lest we slide into complacency. In this case, the story of the chemicals of Lake Michigan. It is a short, beautifully written, disturbing read.
—Emily Monosson, Natural Defense and Unnatural Selection
Peter Gleick’s series, The World’s Water, is one of the most useful surveys of the cutting edge of global waters there is. Each edition brings in-depth coverage of the issues of the day, always eminently readable and backed up by the crack research team that he puts together for each topic. I use it in my classes, always confident that students (and I) will be kept abreast of the best of The World’s Water.
—Aaron Wolf, The Spirit of Dialogue
Mark Jerome Walters' important book, Seven Modern Plagues, places great emphasis on linking emerging diseases with habitat destruction and other forms of modification natural processes. This book is a call for us to recognize that each new disease reflects an environmental warning.
—Andy Dyer, Chasing the Red Queen
My favorite Island Press book is The New Agrarianism: Land, Culture, and the Community of Life, edited by Eric T. Freyfogle. Perhaps it remains my favorite IP text because it is the first IP text I remember reading front to back, twice! I first encountered the book as a graduate student and was struck my its scope and tone. The book is thought provoking. But it's also a joy to read, which isn't surprising in hindsight given the award-winning contributors.
—Michael Carolan, No One Eats Alone
Don't see your Island Press fave? Share it in the comments below!
Katharine is the Publicity & Marketing Associate at Island Press.