I was talking with some friends this morning (and by “morning” I mean 2 PM) about cul-de-sacs and how, for planners, they are a really inefficient and disconnected urban form. I thought I would reproduce my argument here, since it’s a pretty simple exercise in Google Mappery.
Case in Point: Going to Target in western Columbus, Ohio
Figure 1: My parents’ neighborhood in relation to a nearby recent development – the aerial photo is out of date, but in that empty land east of the interstate, there is actually a medical office complex and, on the other side of Trueman, a Home Depot and Target (marked in map).
There is a cul-de-sac separating the neighborhood from the road. Trueman was built around 2006 or so, the houses are only a few years older, and the construction of that road had been on the books for years. In addition, the houses around that cul-de-sac have all put up sturdy metal fences to prevent anyone from cutting through their small yards. There is luckily a nature trail just south of the neighborhood with an outlet onto Trueman, with a sidewalk on that side for relatively pedestrian friendly access (along a 35-mph, four-lane road).
If you wanted to walk from my parents’ house to Target, with a total distance of about 0.7 miles, you would take the following route (Figure 2):
Now, let’s say you wanted to drive to Target instead. Even if you combine this with other trips down the line, it will add 2 miles to your trip (note: this is Google’s suggested route):
There is a slightly shorter route if you instead take Hilliard Cemetery Road, but because of an odd U-turn and boulevard situation, you pretty much have to go further out of your way to get home (Figure 4):
Now, not all cul-de-sacs are extremely inefficient like this one was, but it pretty much illustrates why they are a bad idea.