Today is Halloween, which means that the evening streets are going to be full of little princesses, vampires, witches, ghosts, action heroes and pirates with dreams of candy and gum. As I reflect back on my former days of trick-or-treating, there were characteristics of each neighborhood that I lived, or trick-or-treated in, that certainly separated them. They are the same characteristics that many of us strive for in designing safe, walkable neighborhoods. The following are some of the characteristics that make trick-0r-treating a more enjoyable experience:
1. The Right Monsters: The Quote “When you’re on the street [as a pedestrian], all cars are monsters. When you’re in a car, all pedestrians are idiots” by Alan Pisarski certainly is a true statement in a neighborhood. Highly connected streets decrease the need for automobile sewers, classified as arterials and collectors. Fast moving streets are a major barrier to trick-or-treating. Most kids, with or without parents, are not permitted to cross these barriers on Halloween. Therefore, the area for trick-or-treating is confined to the parameters of vehicular streets as opposed to pedestrian streets. The best trick-or-treating areas in this regard are either in areas developed prior to the classification system (1940’s) or those areas that have a large enough land area within the confines of the classification system.
2. Goldilocks Density: There are neighborhoods designed that have too low of a density (T-1 through T-3) and neighborhoods that have too great of a density (T-6) for effective trick or treating. Just as in the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the best neighborhood is in the middle, or “just right“. The sweet spot for trick-or-treating is between T-4 and T-5. The lower densities have increased need for walking which takes valuable bag-filling time away for the evening. Long driveways, greater distances between homes and large distances where trick-or-treating does not occur makes for an exhausting Halloween. On the other side of the spectrum, climbing stairs in condominiums or apartments, or worst riding on vertical cul-de-sacs (elevators) can take away from the experience of the outdoor Halloween environment. When a neighborhood is designed with townhouses, rowhouses and detached single-family homes aligned along the street, the experience is elevated.
3. Young and the Old: Diversity of the residents in a neighborhood is also critical. You may be wondering why this would matter for Halloween? Simple. With a diverse population, the chances of someone being home are higher with a presence of homeowners who are retired or have kids that are too old for trick-or-treating. With this in mind, you may think it would be ideal to trick-or-treat in a retirement community or 55-plus neighborhood. I happen to agree, except you must drive to trick-or-treat in these areas. As a parent, I feel the presence of community is more important in trick-or-treating than the extra loot that my kids bring home. There is a great piece of mind accepting candy from friends and neighbors and the evening usually elevates the sense of community.
It is my hope that your Halloween is filled with great friends and neighbors, but more importantly, I hope that it is safe. If you must drive a vehicle this evening, please put the phone and all other distractions away. There will be kids and adults in the streets, don’t be a “monster“.