Something important to note is: New Urbanist Neighborhoods are a relatively new creation. These neighborhoods began popping up on the fringes of urban, suburban and ex-urban neighborhoods, adjacent to non-walkable, sprawling, cul-de-sac ridden neighborhoods. Which has meant by-and-large walkable neighborhoods are only walkable within themselves.
Typically the residents living adjacent to retro-urban neighborhoods opposed sidewalk and trail connections for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they didn't know, care or understand what mixed-use & mixed income meant.
So besides big porches and walkable streets, what developed were essentially islands of awesome surrounded by oceans of minimum standards. What we in the planning field need to do is push for new methods of citizen involvement. Trail connections between neighborhoods to increases the walkability of non-new urbanist neighborhoods, but will only get us so far.
Design can only happen when we create the political will to change. When I talk to planning students they usually ask me what's the number one thing you'd recommend to people entering the Urban Design and City Planning field - honestly, i say "Be OK with disappointment".
Developers, architects and urban designers will propose the most gorgeous developments but, what gets built...... is another thing entirely. Political figures are ALWAYS wooed by pretty pictures. An Urban Planner has to see through that, and, like the author, realize your local land use regulations are built on minimum standards, that, are often, 10 - 25 years out of date with today's consumer.
We need to update our land use codes to incorporate better connectivity, but that will only happen if we want it to happen. Are you willing to devote tens of hours of unpaid community volunteerism on City boards and planning processes to change this? Most modern families don't have that kind of time. Developers do.
Lets figure out a better way to engage the public in planning policy and the other stuff will follow. Eventually.....
Ryan Kragerud, AICP
President - Bicycle Longmont