Friday, April 04, 2008

END OF THE ROAD FOR CUL-DE-SAC?

LUCAS OLENIUK, TORONTO STAR Demand for cul-de-sac homes is strong. They can fetch roughly $10,000 more than similar houses on other types of streets. Prized though they may be, they are now frowned upon in planning circles in the GTA and elsewhere in North America and Europe. They're also less and less likely to be built; no wonder when almost all the ills of the modern, sprawling suburb are dumped at their feet. . .

Cul-de-sacs consume vast amounts of land. They create car-dependent zones whose inhabitants spew four times as many greenhouse gas emissions as downtown dwellers. All that driving creates traffic congestion as all those vehicles pour on to a limited number of collector roads.

Since residents spend so much time behind the wheel, abdominal spare tires quickly replace six-packs. A widely quoted American study concluded that people on cul-de-sacs weigh nearly three kilograms more than those in traditional grid neighborhoods of straight streets and right-angle intersections.

Isolated and insular, they become cesspools of self-absorption and pettiness that turn their backs on the wider world. "People who live in a cul-de-sac are out of touch with the rest of their community and most likely do not know much about the folks who live behind the fences of their blocked-off streets," complains a recent report from the American Planning Association.

They inspire crime: A British study says the burglary rate is 30 per cent higher.

They add to the difficulty and cost of firefighting, snow plowing and other municipal services.

This is a heavy burden to lay on a simple arrangement of roads and houses, but it's having an effect. The cul-de-sac is being restricted or banned in municipalities across North America. In Britain, the likes of Prince Charles and former prime minister Tony Blair have called for it to be dumped to the bottom of the bag, forever.