Kathleen Lynn | NorthJersey.com

“People … want to live, work and play in walkable places,” Speck says. “You want to first become a place where people want to be.”

“The person most likely to want to move into downtown is the person most likely to want to get around by bike,” Speck says. “A robust biking population is a good thing.”

After decades when suburban home construction sprawled across the American landscape, many homebuyers and renters — especially younger people — now yearn for tightly woven neighborhoods where you can get to the supermarket, school or library on your own two feet.

Urban planner Jeff Speck says walkable downtowns are one of the best measures of a community's vitality. Pedestrians walking in Ridgewood's downtown last Thursday.

These pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented places are also popular with policymakers because they reduce the greenhouse gases produced by c

ars. In New Jersey, planners are encouraging development along commuter train lines, and builders are focusing on multifamily buildings in established neighborhoods.

Jeff Speck, a Washington-based writer and city planner, says these neighborhoods are necessary if towns and cities want to attract the kind of young, creative workers who make a place vital.

“Get walkability right and so much of the rest will follow,” says Speck, who has worked with hundreds of mayors at the Mayors’ Institute on City Design at the National Endowment for the Arts. Speck’s book, “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” is newly available in paperback (North Point Press, $16). {….}

Photo courtesy of Chris Monroe | Special to the Record