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Old 02-10-2014, 08:02 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 28 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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I think the influence of climate is small, but real. Just anecdotally, I see more people out walking in my town when the weather is nice than when it's cold and snowy. Far fewer people bike in Minneapolis in the winter, bike lanes notwithstanding.
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Old 02-10-2014, 10:48 PM
 
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Originally Posted by markovian process View Post
It can be argued it makes a big difference. For instance, people would want to be outside and walking/biking more in pleasant climates (not too hot or cold) so you would expect more pedestrian streets or public squares in climates the majority of the population finds pleasurable.

In practice, it seems that climate has little influence compared to history (newer or older, built before the car, streetcars, or postwar etc.), local attitudes and cultures (eg. hip, liberal college towns vs. conservative towns and cities).

Sunbelt places (though you could argue, many of them, besides Californian climates have summers too unpleasant for walking/biking) seem no more likely, and perhaps even less so, if they are new developments, to have alternate or non-car mode uses than places with cold climates.

Does climate even have a slight influence or is on the radar at all for urban planners? Do people predict others to be outside more in climates with more days closer to room temperatures of indoor rooms and offices? To me, as I am sitting around typing this in the winter when I'm craving spring warmth, it seems like it would have an influence logically but it does not seem to matter as much as I imagine. It seems like for those who live in colder climates, going outside to stroll, walking the streets, sitting on a bench or lounging outside in an outdoor park or other places in the town or city is much more pleasant outside of winter. I would think it would influence usage of streets, sidewalks, benches but how common is it taken into account for urban planners?
I think your primary influencing variables are:
1) Historical timeline of influential growth spurt
2) The prevailing transportation technology / means
3) Geographical and topographical constraints
4) Predominant cultural societal heritage (ordering philosophy to institutional buildings / functions etc)

Climate will be negligible on urban planning - but, will influence styles of architecture that provide the most efficient building science for the natural habitat.
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Old 02-10-2014, 10:52 PM
 
Location: Oakland, CA
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Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
I think the influence of climate is small, but real. Just anecdotally, I see more people out walking in my town when the weather is nice than when it's cold and snowy. Far fewer people bike in Minneapolis in the winter, bike lanes notwithstanding.
Totally makes sense, it might be a little scary to bike in the snow unless your tires have enough traction.

I live where the weather is possibly ideal for biking year round. We have around a 3 month rainy season in the winter (it is off and on, rarely more than 2 days straight). Otherwise, winter highs are about 55-60, lows about 40. Spring and fall are a touch warmer at about 65 (lows in the upper 40s/low 50s). Summer is around 75 (lows in the mid 50s)! Lots of cycling around here. Also lots of cycling for transpiration too. The combo of hipsters, environmentalists and active lifestyle types makes it pretty common.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:04 PM
 
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I don't think climate makes any difference at all. Time of the majority of the development, (pre or post-car) and zoning standards are way more important. There's also racism & classism in the US (can't really speak to outside the US) which drove suburban development in many cities.

Worldwide, this is mostly borne out as well: Check the climate of the Netherlands - the king of the bicycle. Winters are pretty cold. 6 months of the year, the average high is less than 50F with average lows around 10F. And it rains quite a bit. Yet they still bicycle and walk everywhere.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:04 PM
 
Location: Crooklyn, New York
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I used to wonder about that as a kid. I always thought that perhaps northern cities were denser than southern cities because people wanted things closer because it was so damned cold.

But as others have pointed out, you have dense, walkable southern cities like New Orleans and Charleston and not so dense and less walkable cities like Minneapolis. San Francisco is also very dense and walkable but it doesn't get very cold there.

So yeah, the common denominator here appears to be age.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:44 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by TheOverdog View Post
I don't think climate makes any difference at all. Time of the majority of the development, (pre or post-car) and zoning standards are way more important. There's also racism & classism in the US (can't really speak to outside the US) which drove suburban development in many cities.

Worldwide, this is mostly borne out as well: Check the climate of the Netherlands - the king of the bicycle. Winters are pretty cold. 6 months of the year, the average high is less than 50F with average lows around 10F. And it rains quite a bit. Yet they still bicycle and walk everywhere.
They're chilly, but not that cold. At least for northern US standards. A lot of the rain is drizzle, and bike speeds are slow. With fenders and a decent jacket isn't that unpleasant cycling weather. In contrast, I suspect in place like India, bicycling for transportation will stay as poor people's transportation as the climate is permamently sticky and physical motion will result in sweat most of the year.

Weather has more of an effect on bicycling comfort due to the speed involved than walking comfort. There are plenty of hot places in East Asia that aren't very auto oriented.
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Old 02-12-2014, 09:07 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
Weather has more of an effect on bicycling comfort due to the speed involved than walking comfort.
Actually, I'd rather be biking in heat and humidity (without a backpack, of course) than walking. Biking at normal bike commuting speeds (10-12 mph) requires less exertion than walking, especially if you're using the proper gears, and you generate your own breeze. Biking fast or up hills, however, will get you sweaty real quick, but so will walking up hills or fast. Now if it's cold and rainy, that wind is detrimental and you want to generate that body heat, so walking would be more pleasant.

Public transit waiting times in the sun can be alleviated by having a decent level of service and bus shelters and crosswalks at the bus stops to minimize walking distance, which is generally NOT the case in car dominated warm climate cities. Waiting 3 minutes in the sun for a cross walk signal to change is no fun either. I would imagine waiting a half hour for a bus is just as unpleasant at 30F as it is as 90F, while 5 minutes for a train is much easier to deal with in any climate. Also, keep in mind most outdoor activities and commuting in warm climates happens in the morning or evening when it is not as hot.

I think it's more a matter of "you can't use something that doesn't exist" than something determined by the climate.
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