A collection of thoughts on the run to contribute to more liveable communities:
Melbourne is relatively flat. Our new growth area subdivisions can be like Copenhagen with bikes to get around to local destinations and dedicated off road bike lanes joining all destinations in the most direct route. These short cut/direct, off road bicycle lanes would be attractive to parents cycling with very young children, teenagers getting themselves to sport, friends or school, and the aged on bicycles or four wheel access scooters. The key for good usage are that they are a time efficient option ie the short cut between key destinations, relatively level or not excessively hilly, are safe away from busy roads but are activated with users for passive surveillance, and create an enjoyable space. These routes can become a centre for activity and a lifestyle transport spine through an estate.
Melbourne Interface Councils Snapshot report figures confirm the levels of parks and recreation space is higher in growth area new residential subdivisions than any other Melbourne location. Developers and councils seem wedded to the idea that we must have lots of space for a good lifestyle. But excessive amounts of recreation space impacts density and hence proximity to services and it costs developers. Better to reduce the open space requirements and require developers provide physical off road cycling infrastructure. Less open space reduces maintenance costs and allows developer to pay for better assets.
Providing this easy alternative transport spine through an estate opens up the option for reduced financial stress as some families may be able to avoid the need for a second car. Bicycles or electric scooters become a more attractive and viable transport option, as they are in poster cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and many Asian cities. New growth area estates have high rates of dual car ownership because they need it. Mernda has 1.8 cars per dwelling. Richmond 1.1 cars per dwelling (ABS census 2016).
Electric scooters and bikes on good direct transport spines to public transport helps alleviate the last mile problem. In many cases they can reduce the problem of distance to public transport.
Buildings surrounding our local or neighbourhood centres should be designed to be flexible. They should be able to start life as residential but easily be converted to office, warehouse or other uses if needed.
Flexibility could extend to switching between different sectors within the residential market. An aged care provider could build-own-operate long term lease rental housing incorporating a social housing component as well as renting to full rate tenants for the early stages of a building’s life. When the demographic of an area shifts the rental accommodation could convert to a modified aged care model.
Build-own-operate simplifies the provision of longer rental terms (say five years rather than the standard 1 year), more necessary as breaking into the home ownership market becomes increasingly difficult for many.
We need to build buildings that can accommodate our old people close to facilities so they can get out and about if they wish to. To remain a valued part of the community as long as possible.
Local or neighbourhood centres seem to just accommodate retail and office space, and industrial spaces are sent away to a distant industrial estate. Does this preclude the local mechanic setting up beside the supermarket where you can walk to and drop of your car for repairs rather than needing a lift 5km away? Can builders, plumbers and trades have their store yards close to home, or again are they always located away in estates? Can we accommodate light manufacturing in 3D or CNC manufacturing beside our centres showing the full, non noisy but greater non sanitised range of activities to interest youth and other potentially retraining workers?
Finally there is a growing body of well designed attractive factories, to house these light industry functions unlikely to clash with locals lifestyles.