How Parking Destroys Cities

Parking requirements attack the nature of the city itself, subordinating density to the needs of the car.

Michael ManvilleAssociate urban-planning professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs

An empty parking lot

Lewis Mumford was suspicious of parking. “The right to access every building in a city by private motorcar,” he wrote in The City in History, “in an age when everyone owns such a vehicle, is actually the right to destroy the city.” Jane Jacobs, who disagreed with Mumford on many counts, agreed here. Parking lots, she said in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, were “border vacuums”: inactive spaces that deadened everything around them.

Mumford and Jacobs published those lines in 1961, when most United States cities were 15 years into an experiment called “minimum parking requirements”: mandates in zoning codes that forced developers to supply parking on-site to prevent curb congestion. In postwar America, development was booming, and neighbors were worried that new residents would make street-parking impossible. Decades later, parking requirements still exist nationwide. In Los Angeles, where I live, new apartment buildings must have at least one parking space per unit; retail buildings need one space per 300 square feet; and restaurants need one space for every 100 square feet of dining area.

Parking requirements enforce what Mumford decried: the right to access every building by private car. As Mumford predicted, they have been a disaster. American urban history is stained with tragic missteps and shameful injustices, so parking requirements are hardly the worst policy cities have tried. But they are notable for how much needless damage they have caused, over a long period, with few people even noticing.

The trouble with parking requirements is twofold. First, they don’t do what they’re supposed to, which is prevent curb congestion. Because curb parking is convenient and usually free, drivers fill up the curb first, no matter how much off-street space exists nearby. Second—and more consequential—parking requirements attack the nature of the city itself, by subordinating density to the needs of the car.

Cars revolutionized transportation by promising not just speed, but autonomy. Cars let you go wherever you want, whenever you want, by yourself and by a route of your choosing. But that promise is fulfilled only if everywhere you might go has a place to store the car whenever you arrive. A train drops a passenger off and keeps going. A driver drops a car off and keeps going. Thus most trains are mostly moving, while most cars are parked most of the time. The price of the car’s convenience, then, is the space it consumes when it isn’t in motion, and indeed even when it isn’t there. Cities designed for cars must set aside space: space to wait for cars, and space to hold them while they wait for their drivers to come back.

Parking minimums take the cost of that space—a cost that should be borne by drivers—and push it onto developers, hiding it in the cost of building. Sometimes this means a project can’t be built at all. At other times, it makes projects more expensive: In downtown L.A., parking usually costs developers more than $50,000 per space to build. Walt Disney Concert Hall, a cultural landmark that is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, cost $274 million to build. Of that total, the underground parking structure, which is not a cultural landmark (it’s an underground parking structure), accounted for $100 million.

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Green social Prescribing- Networkshop

The recording of our latest Networkshop is available here:

The Programme was:

Part 1: Green Social Prescribing- The story so far

·      Welcome, introduction and the case for Green Social Prescribing- Nigel Boldero (NGCN)

·      A national perspective on Social Prescribing to date- Sian Brand/Tim Anfilogoff (Regional NHS leads on Social Prescribing)

·      Social Prescribing in Norfolk and Waveney– Rachel Hunt (Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group)

·      Questions

Part 2- Looking ahead

·      Natural England perspective on Green Social Prescribing and the national pilots- Giles Merritt (Natural England Eastern region)

·      The Dundee Green Health PartnershipDr.Viola Marx (Project lead)

·      Introduction to the National Academy for Social PrescribingJulie Ringer (Regional Coordinator- NASP)

·      Possible developments in Norfolk and Waveney- Nigel plus questions and discussion

·      Thanks and follow up- Nigel Boldero (NGCN)

Planning walking and cycling networks


Thursday, 27 May 2021 12:00-13:00


Crispin Cooper, Sustainable Places Research Institute

This seminar will demonstrate the latest simulation tools jointly developed by Cardiff University Sustainable Places Research Institute, Leeds University Institute for Transport Studies, and Sustrans – the charity making it easier for people to walk and cycle.

Book a place here

BBC Springwatch: Norfolk to host Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan

Springwatch presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke and Iolo Williams
Springwatch’s Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan with fellow presenters Iolo Williams and Gillian Burke

The BBC’s Springwatch programme is to celebrate the best in British wildlife from a new home in Norfolk.

Presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan will be at Wild Ken Hill, a sustainable farming project in the west of the county, it has been confirmed.

Stars of the show will be a colony of beavers that have been reintroduced as part of a rewilding project.

Two male beavers joined the already established females at the end of last year. It is hoped the pairs will mate.

Dominic Buscall, from Wild Ken Hill said: “We’re extremely excited to co-host Springwatch this year.”

The BBC programme will look at the farm, how it co-exists with nature and attempt to film the wildlife on the site.

There will be more than 30 remote cameras across its 4,000 acres, including one in a barn owl box.

Wild Ken Hill
Wild Ken Hill is a conservation and sustainable farming project on the west coast of Norfolk

Producer’s hope birds such as kestrels, skylarks and long-tailed tits will be captured by the cameras, as well as the Barbastelle bat, one of the UK’s rarest species of mammal.

The site is also home to brown hares, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs.

Mr Buscall, the project manager at Wild Ken Hill, said the farm would be showcasing its “important and innovative work and hopefully providing a message of hope for the recovery of nature in Britain”.

Springwatch will also feature the work of wildlife rangers on the East Anglian fens.

The award-winning BBC Two wildlife show is no stranger to the region’s wildlife having previously been based at Pensthorpe in Norfolk from 2008 until 2010. It was also at Minsmere in Suffolk, from 2014 until 2016.

Springwatch begins on BBC Two on 25 May.

News from St. Martins

Nature and the environment is the theme of  Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from May 10-16. Even small contacts with nature can reduce feelings of social isolation and be effective in protecting our mental health, and preventing distress.

This week we have been getting outside with the people we support, doing litter picks, nature walks and making bug hotels. We have enjoyed connecting with nature and noticing the small things around us and how they can impact on our mental health. We have access to an allotment plot, and regularly organise wellbeing walks and trips out to farms and parks. The comfort these things bring make a huge difference to our lives.

£3,150 raised at Bishop’s Garden event

Our fundraising event at the Bishop’s Garden last week was a great success. Thank you to all who attended and to the volunteers who helped the day run smoothly. The weather was glorious, our craft items sold like hotcakes and musicians from Notre Dame High School provided a wonderful atmosphere. We are delighted that £3,150 was raised for St Martins.

Cooking with kids at home saw a boom during lockdown – here’s why it needs to continue

Fiona Lavelle

Research Fellow in the Institute for Global Food Security, Queen’s University Belfast

A father teaches his son how to kneed dough on a kitchen surface
Cooking with your kids can provide valuable bonding time. Grekov’s | Shutterstock

For some parents, the suggestion that they let their kids do the cooking might have been fear-inducing. Scenes of the kitchen looking like a bomb site might have flashed before their eyes. There’s a good chance, though, that COVID-19 has changed all that.

During the pandemic, cooking with kids was routinely suggested in the media as both a learning aid and a distraction. To find out whether parents followed that advice, myself and some colleagues surveyed a cross-section of 718 parents from the UK, Ireland, the US and New Zealand for two months during 2020.

In our recently published study, we found that not only had children been cooking and baking, but that parents who included their children more frequently had a higher quality of diet. The question now is: was it just a good distraction while stuck at home, or should this continue?

Positive patterns and bonding

Learning to cook at a young age can set you up with positive dietary patterns for adulthood. Children tend to be more willing to eat vegetables and food in general when they’ve been involved in cooking it. This has implications both for making them healthier and reducing food waste.

Children also tend to take those cooking skills on into adulthood. They are essential life skills that promote confidence, responsibility and independence and enable children to make appropriate food choices as they continue to grow.

By cooking with your children, you’re also spending quality time together, doing something enjoyable and productive. This is important to hold on to as restrictions ease and there is a return to work.

Of course, enjoyment may not be the first word that springs to mind: mess might be more like it. But that mess just highlights that the children really are taking a hands-on approach, literally getting their hands dirty, which is a great way to learn. And teaching children how to clean up the mess properly after cooking is part of the whole process. The added bonus, of course, is that once they know how, the burden of cleaning won’t all fall on you anymore. You both might find the experience more enjoyable.

The extra time spent together during COVID-19 has been shown to strengthen bonds too. So cooking could be used more broadly as a way to build or strengthen relationships with your children.

In our research, we found both mums and dads using cooking to spend time with their children. In fact, children may even learn different tips and tricks or recipes from both parents. Furthermore, the kitchen provides an enticing antidote to the understandable yet concerning increase in screen-time during the pandemic, as well as the increase in sedentary behaviours.

How to get started

If the pandemic trend passed you by and you’re now wondering how to get your kids into the kitchen, we have developed a handy guide for what skills your children can be doing by which age. There are ways to involve even two-year-olds, so this is not something that has to wait until they are older.

A little girl in a red dress sits on a counter top stirring cake mixture to make cupcakes
If you’ve never cooked with your kids, baking is a good place to start. tanaphong toochinda | unsplash, FAL

Begin with the basics. Have them wash the vegetables and stir the pot. Let them help with the chopping – if you’re nervous about them handling sharp implements, start them out on plastic or butter knives and soft food to get them used to the movement. If savoury food isn’t sparking an interest, try a bit of baking instead. Who doesn’t love a homemade treat?

One particularly interesting finding from our research has been the relationship between including children in cooking more and parents having a better diet. This suggests two things. Either people who eat a better diet generally are more likely to include their children when cooking. Or including children makes parents pay more attention to what they eat.

If the latter, this may be due to parents trying to be positive role models for their children in how they prepare food, and what they actually eat too. It could be that parents try to choose healthier options or recipes with extra vegetables in order to expose their children to these ingredients.

Either way, including children in cooking may have a positive influence on what both you and your child eat. As an added bonus, by teaching children cooking skills, you are essentially training kitchen assistants, who will be able to help you with meal prep as they grow. Teach them how to peel and chop a carrot now, and get your dinner made for you in the future. Or at the very least, they will be able to get things started when you’re running late coming home from work.

Events from Wise Nature

Mindfulness and Ecotherapy Day

20th June 2021

Our base for the day will be a yurt on a meadow where we can enjoy wildlife. We will also venture out to a nearby ancient woodland.

On the day we will

  • Explore mindfulness and self-compassion practices
  • Have time for self-reflection and creativity
  • Allow periods of silence as well as time for sharing
  • Deeply experience our felt sense of relationship with Nature

Time: 10 am – 4 pm.

Date: 20th June

Location: Near Halesworth, Suffolk

Cost: Early Bird £30: After 6th June £40

Mental Health Awareness Week: Connect With Nature

The Grow Wild team share their five top tips for connecting with nature, and how they have helped their mental wellbeing throughout the pandemic.

1. Look beyond what’s in front of you

Ellen, Grow Wild’s Communications Executive, says: “I’ve found that being in the same place for most of the year can make me feel quite cabin-feverish. To combat this, I’ve tried to go on regular walks in my local area to get fresh air and sunshine, which are already great for boosting your wellbeing, but rather than walking on auto-pilot, I’ve tried to challenge myself to look beyond what’s immediately in front of me. I might look for hidden plants and fungi growing around the trees in my local park, or find a new route that takes me away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets and onto quiet back roads, where I pay attention to what’s growing in people’s front gardens. I also really enjoy seeing and identifying the wildflowers growing in the pavement cracks, or spotting a hidden carpet of Sweet Violets hidden in the undergrowth.” Paying attention to the simple beauty of nature can have a profound effect on our wellbeing, so have a look next time you go for a walk, and see what you find. You could take a notebook or use an app to record or identify your findings.

2. Follow your nose…

Alison, Grow Wild’s Programme Manager, shares: “I’ve really been enjoying the spring scents on the air lately. Whenever I detect a lovely aroma floating on the breeze, I follow my nose and try to locate the plant that it came from! If I know the plant is safe to touch, and I have permission to, I’ll often rub a leaf or flower to release the volatile essential oils which give aromatic plants their scent. Recently, I’ve really been enjoying the aromas of wild plants like Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum), and Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in the woods near my house, and also the Mint (Mentha piperita) that grows in my garden.” Senses play a huge part in our wellbeing, and our sense of smell, in particular, provides a direct link to the part of our brain (the amygdala) associated with emotions and memory. Ever smelled something and immediately been transported back to a particular memory or time of your life? That’s the Olfactory bulb and amygdala connection at work! Sensory gardens, as well as disciplines such as Aromatherapy, make use of this connection between our sense of smell and emotions for their therapeutic objectives.

“The process of journaling really made me begin to appreciate all the different shapes and textures”
Grow wild poppies and cornflowers
3. Get to know the ‘locals’

Phoebe, one of Grow Wild’s Engagement Assistants, says: “I’ve been making more of an effort to notice and learn the names of the plants growing in my local hedgerows. It makes me pay more attention to my natural surroundings and generally be more outward-looking! At the moment, there are lots of primroses (Primula vulgaris) and Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum), but I’ve also found some lesser-known plants which I’ve since learnt are the poisonous Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis and Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) – both species are indicators of ancient woodland! I’ve also seen Bugle (Ajuga reptans), a creeping plant that uses its runners to spread all over damp grassy areas and clearings in woodland.” Learning something new can be a satisfying and rewarding experience; there’s a reason why ‘Keep Learning’ is one of the spokes on the Wheel of Wellbeing! Why not try out your wild plant identification skills with our What’s that Wildflower Wildflower ID template and factsheets, or visit our Wildflower Gallery to help you develop your skills.

4. Study the changing seasons

Isha, Grow Wild’s Engagement & Training Assistant shares her top tip: “I started an art nature journal in January to try and record the seasons changing, something that I had never had time to do before Covid-19! The process of journaling really made me begin to appreciate all the different shapes and textures of moss, as well as trying to identify the different trees I saw on my walks, just from their silhouettes! The whole project has been a lovely distraction from the challenges of the wider world, and also presented a very good reason to force myself to go outside for some fresh air during January, which typically is my least favourite month, let alone with lockdown…!” Journalling has become extremely popular as a mindfulness tool in recent years, with good reason; it has been shown by studies to provide us with a whole heap of wellbeing benefits, from better sleep to improved emotional processing. If you’d like to read more on journaling, this New York Times article has lots to say on the subject, and also links to some interesting studies.

5. Stare at the stars

Chloe, Grow Wild Training & Engagement Officer, says: “If I’m feeling stressed out by day-to-day worries or juggling lots of demands on my time, I find a really effective way to get some perspective is to look up at the stars. Looking out into the vastness of the universe, wondering what lies beyond and how things came to be always makes me feel very small. This often puts my worries into perspective and brings into focus the things in my life that really matter.” We think this tip is a brilliant one. If you live in a city, why not wrap up warm one evening, climb a hill or visit a spot with a view, and admire the twinkling city lights from afar? We’ve found that this can have a similar effect. After all, humans and cities are part of nature, too! Don’t forget to let friends and family know where you are going if walking alone at night, and take sensible precautions. Even better, bring someone along with you.

…And finally, get growing!

Whether you’re growing plants in a great big garden or sowing in a simple window box, the health benefits of getting green-fingered are well documented. One thing that’s really helped keep the whole Grow Wild team’s momentum and motivation going throughout lockdown has been sharing the fruits (and failures!) of our gardening efforts throughout the past year. We’ve connected (and commiserated) over our shared wildflower woes and vegetable victories, and whilst we haven’t worked together in person for what seems like forever, having a common thread and interest to connect us all has been a real lifeline. Connection with others is key to our wellbeing, and a shared interest makes it all the more fun to reach out, even if it’s only digitally, and connect with others who share our passion. At Grow Wild, we have plenty of online resources to help you start growing, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a complete newbie. You can also connect with our community! Join our Facebook groups for Fungus and Wildflower growers, or come and say hi on Twitter or Instagram.

If you’d like to read more about this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, take a look at the Mental Health Foundation’s website. They have resources, videos and more information about the links between nature and our mental health.

Mare blobs and Mental Health

By Nigel Boldero FRSA

Convenor- Norfolk Green Care Network

‘I love to see the summer beaming forth
And white wool sack clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild flowers come again
And mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain …’

John Clare (1793-1864)

John Clare, considered by many as the finest poet in the English language, had a troubled life. His love of ‘mare blobs’ (Marsh Marigolds- see picture above) and many other dimensions of nature was not enough to prevent him developing mental illness, and he ended his days in a ‘Madhouse’ in Northampton.

But there is a wealth of historic observation and a growing body of research evidence to show that connecting with nature can be a powerful way of promoting mental (and physical) health, helping to treat ill health and aiding recovery.  Our love of nature goes back a long way, as these quotes from the celebrities of their time demonstrate…

“Nature itself is the best physician.”

– Hippocrates

“To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.”

– Jane Austen

“All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child.”

― Marie Curie

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

– Albert Einstein

Why do we love Nature?

The causes of mental illness remain largely a mystery; our understanding of physical illnesses is much greater and has spawned a wide range of scientific and medical specialties. Despite the growth in research that shows the benefits of connecting with nature, theories on why this is so are limited.

Some think it goes back to our early existence as humans when, as hunter gatherers and as early farmers, our relationship to the natural world was more direct and integrated. Somehow the traits developed then still permeate our lives today.

Other theories suggest that natural environments promote feelings of “being away” from routines and thoughts that dominate our attention and cause stress. Features such as clouds and sunsets that attract attention without requiring mental focus help to restore our minds from ‘attention fatigue’.

Robert Ulrich thinks that spatial openness, the presence of pattern or structure, water and other features of the natural world trigger feelings of interest, pleasantness and calm that allow us to recover from stress. American poet Sylvia Plath illustrates this ‘fascination’:

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, This is what it is to be happy”.

Another explanation is simply that we appreciate nature because we are part of it. As time has moved on and we have ‘progressed’ into new ways of surviving, with an emphasis on controlling and directing nature, so we have become less connected with it.  What Richard Louv has described as ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’-especially for children who have particularly suffered from ‘more screen, less green’ in their lives.

What are the benefits to mental health?

Being in nature- either passively sensing it (e.g. with a walk in a wood) or actively engaging with it (e.g. through gardening) can promote positive feelings and help to promote mental health. Things like:

  • Reducing anxiety, stress and fatigue
  • Improving mood
  • Raising self esteem
  • Improving emotional well being
  • Reducing hyperactivity and inattention
  • Improving resilience
  • Building supportive relationships where some sort of communal activity is involved

And seeing or otherwise connecting with nature can aid treatment and recovery- ‘social and therapeutic horticulture’ and other therapeutic activities can target particular health needs.

Even just seeing nature can help recovery; studies have shown how patients in hospitals with east facing rooms or ‘green views’ need less pain killers and recover quicker, and hospital gardens are increasingly important features of hospital design; something that hospices have long known.

And, to an extent, some of the benefits of nature connection can be secured through indirect exposure. I recently discovered that those laying prone whilst undergoing a body scan at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital can view moving images and sounds from nature to help relax them (see above- they are even offered a variety of different films!)

How can you connect with Nature?

There is a wide range of options. At Norfolk Green Care Network, we like to define ‘green care’ as all sorts of nature connection. This diagram summarises the six main dimensions (my inadvertent use of a ‘beehive’ diagram was gratefully received by a beekeeper at one of our online workshops recently!).

As you can see, from anything that enables you to ‘sense’ nature (it might be just a view from a window or walk along a beach); through more directed activities that could involve other people (e.g. community gardens and conservation projects are wonderful ways to meet other people and build relationships); to different ways of interacting with animals (e.g. riding or engaging horses, tending to them on care farms or through special projects that use ‘pets as therapy’ by visiting people in long term care, or helping children build relationships and self-confidence).

What are the challenges?

Access– research shows that those living in areas of deprivation have generally less access to open space- can we take positive action to increase green space in these areas and improve connectivity in all communities?

Modern lifestyles- as already mentioned our lifestyles are becoming increasingly urbanised, with greater online and home-based activity- what can we do to make it ‘normal’ for people to connect with nature?

Neighbourhood planning and design- awareness is growing of the importance of access to green space as part of designing new developments that are more environmentally friendly, less car dependent and safer to walk, cycle and play in- how do we influence developers, architects and planners to design with nature connection in mind?

Care for nature- there are signs that we are becoming more aware of the importance of protecting biodiversity and taking positive action to ‘re wild’ our environment- how can we ensure an active, coordinated approach to nature protection and enhancement?

The pandemic- opportunity or threat?

Well, I think it’s potentially both….

On the one hand research has shown that the pandemic, with its associated restrictions on movement, has enabled people to appreciate nature more, (especially that ‘on the doorstep’) and to seek out green (and ‘blue’) places to connect with it. Families have been visiting these places together and with others; walking and cycling have been boosted as a part of many people’s daily routines.

But it is also clear that the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic are still yet to be fully felt; significant increases in unemployment, the mental and other stresses and strains caused by disruption to normal family routines and social contacts and so on.

So, the need for nature connection has never been greater; how do we expand the opportunities, channel and manage this activity so as not to destroy nature?

At the Norfolk Green Care Network we are not only helping our members to connect with each other but are actively finding ways to promote the growth in ‘green care’ …..and care for nature.

Register for ‘Churches Count on Nature 2021’

Churches Count on Nature runs as part of Caring for God’s Acre’s Love Your Burial Ground week from Saturday 5th June – Sunday 13th June 2021.
We are asking churches to use the week as a springboard to start recording the wildlife within their churchyards.
So, if you fancy running a wildlife spotting event in Love Your Burial Ground Week then please fill out the form below or download a copy here and we will send you a link to a page where you can download various resources.
Read the frequently asked questions about Churches Count on Nature here.
We look forward to hearing what you have discovered in your local churchyard!
Churchyards are often ideal paces for social distancing, even if you have to control the number of people coming in at any one time.  We are all hoping that by June we will be able to meet up outdoors, although we recognise it may have to be in small numbers.  For up-to-date government Covid-19 secure advice please visit for activities in England and for Wales.
Please register your activities – download a copy here. You should get an autoreply to your registration email containing our logo which you can use in your publicity – please check your spam folder if this does not arrive. Don’t forget to visit our resources page to help you with planning your activity.
We look forward to hearing from you!

Connecting People with Nature

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