An Appleyard a Day . . .

Donald Appleyard (born July 26, 1928 – England) was an urban designer and theorist, teaching at the University of California, Berkeley. Appleyard first studied architecture, and later urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  After graduation, he taught at MIT for six years, and later at the University of California, Berkeley.

He worked on neighbourhood design in Berkeley and Athens and citywide planning in San Francisco and Ciudad Guayana.  His interests became focused on the livability of cities and neighbourhoods, particularly upon streets.  He was a person of ideas – especially concerned with expanding the scope of urban design to encompass thinking from the social sciences.  He was a humanist urban planner who loved to work with people on their environmental problems, a person concerned about community and public life.

Recognised the world over as such, he was called upon by people and professional colleagues to help them make better urban environments.  Donald Appleyard, who spent a major part of his life making cities and neighbourhoods safe and liveable, died in Athens, Greece, September 1982, an innocent victim of a senseless, speeding automobile.  He was just 54 years old.
1 (Allan B. Jacobs, C.C. Cooper-Marcus, T.G. Dickert, 2011)

P H I       Making cities and neighbourhoods safe
LOSO      and liveable by celebrating the quality of
P H Y      spaces rather than using the spaces for
the “rapid movement of lumps of metal”

His 1981 book Liveable Streets was described at the time by Grady Clay, the editor of the Landscape Architecture magazine, as “the most thorough and detailed work on urban streets to date”.  It contained a comparison of three streets of similar morphology in San Francisco, which had different levels of car traffic: one with 2,000 vehicles per day, the others with 8,000 respectively 16,000 vehicles per day.  His empirical research demonstrated that residents of the street with low car traffic volume had three times more friends than those living on the street with high car traffic.  In 2009, he was named one of Planetizen’s Top 100 Thinkers of all time.  He was ranked 57.

Appleyard’s research dealt in large measure with subjects including the effects of traffic upon the lives of local residents, the physical characteristics of cities as fulfilling and joyful places to live, how to manage traffic in residential areas, conservation of neighbourhoods and the like.  He was an innovative and creative researcher in exploring these interests, which accounts for his considerable impact on the field.  His methods involved the development of new survey techniques to relate people’s perceptions and values to the design process and to resulting physical environments.  He was largely responsible for the pioneering environmental simulation laboratory which permits testing and comparing different environments and designs by use of models and video
photography where viewers can experience a simulated environment as if they were in it.  Examples of the simulation laboratory work include: making films of the effects of future high-rise development on the San Francisco skyline, demonstrating the neighbourhood impacts of alternative transportation technologies, and evaluating the impact of a controversial interstate highway.

Appleyard’s work was known throughout the world. He was invited to lecture at universities in more than forty countries.  At Berkeley, his teaching was central in shaping the education of a new generation of professionals sensitive to the physical environment as people experience it.
1 (Allan B. Jacobs, C.C. Cooper-Marcus, T.G. Dickert, 2011)

He authored more than one hundred articles and professional reports and a host of books, including The View from the Road (1963), Planning a Pluralistic City (1967), The Conservation of European Cities (1979), Improving the Residential Street Environment (1981), and Liveable Streets (1981).  Of his writing, Grady Clay, Editor of Landscape Architecture magazine, calls his book Liveable Streets, “by far the most thorough and detailed work on urban streets to date, offering precise ammunition for activists and citizens for years to come… as a resource for the future, it is a classic.”

“People have always lived on streets.  They have been the places
where children first learned about the world, where neighbours met,
the social centers of towns and cities, the rallying points for revolts,
the scenes of repression…  The street has always been the scene
of this conflict, between living and access, between resident and
traveller, between street life and the threat of death.”

At the time of his death, Appleyard’s research and writings were taking him in
new, but related, directions, including a major work on the study of environmental symbolism.  Professionally, Appleyard was active in projects that ranged from detailed neighbourhood planning and design, such as the Berkeley street diverter program, to plans at a citywide scale, such as Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela.  He was a major contributor to the San Francisco Urban Design Plan, had worked in Africa and Mexico, and at the time of his death was on leave working in Athens on neighbourhood planning.

Over the years, he had been chairman of the Department of Landscape Architecture and had received numerous awards, not the least of which was a Fulbright Senior Fellowship to Italy in 1975, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Graham Foundation Fellowship.  He was at the height of his productive, creative years at the time of his death.
2 (World Streets 2.0: The Politics of Transport in Cities, 2011)

“Sounds, smells, sensations of touch and weather are all diluted. Vision
is framed and limited; the driver is relatively inactive. He has less
opportunity to stop, explore, or choose his path than does the man on
foot. Only the speed, scale, and grace of his movement can
compensate for these limitations. ”

The View from The Road, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1963 by Donald Appleyard; Kevin Lynch; John Myer:

Deals with the aesthetics of urban highways:
– the way they look to the driver and passengers
– what this implies for their design

Also, the highway offers a good example of a design issue that is typical of the city: the problem of designing visual sequences for the observer in motion.  Appleyard’s work in the 1960’s with Kevin Lynch at MIT and with the Ciudad Guayana project in Venezuela, explores physical form as reflected in human understanding. He focuses on the ways people structure their perceptions of environments and the nature of those mental
representations that are influenced not only by the physical setting but also by travel mode, spatial and temporal context, familiarity and social significance.
Dominating these works is the general orientation of cognitive psychology that leads to an understanding of the environment as it is understood by its inhabitants and to the design of the responsive environments.
3 (D. Appleyard, K. Lynch, J. Myer, 1963)
4 (Infrascape Design, 2010)

Planning a Pluralistic City, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1967 by Donald Appleyard:

“Ciudad Guayana was many cities in one.  Different people knew it in different ways.  Their perceptions of its parts, their predictions of how it might grow varied from group to group and from person to person. Citizens viewed the city in different ways depending on their backgrounds, familiarity with the city, patterns of use, educational level, and methods of transportation…”

This book, based on the experience of Appleyard while working in Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela, demonstrates that the deeper conflicts between planners and people are not only the result of clashes of value or intent but are as much reflections of basic differences in perception.  The planner sees his model of the projected city as a totality, from above; the inhabitant sees the present reality, from street level.  The planner’s map is a multicoloured physical reality; the inhabitant constructs and constantly revises his mental map as experience interacts with memory.  In further writing about the urban environment, Appleyard brings an expanded set of concerns, which include not only psychology, but also economics, politics, sociology and history to his analysis of extant built and open spaces as well as to the planning of future environments.  Appleyard was involved with his own cities, evident in the writings about Boston, Berkeley and San Francisco.

5 (D. Appleyard, 1967)

6 (Mitpress, n.d.)

Liveable Streets, University of California Press, Berkeley, ’81 by Donald Appleyard:

“Nearly everyone in the world lives on a street. This book has two
objectives: To explore what it is like to live on streets with different
kinds of traffic. To search for ways in which more streets can be made
safe and livable. ”

Appleyard made a huge leap forward leaving the tasteless world of transport economics, cost-benefit analysis, highway construction and foolish notions about higher car based mobility feeding higher quality of life well behind.  It establishes a new paradigm and to the shame of most transport professionals and politicians making decisions on transport
choices its message is diluted, misunderstood and ignored.  In the late 1960’s Appleyard conducted a renowned study on liveable streets, comparing three residential streets in San Francisco which on the surface did not differ on much else but their levels of traffic.  The 2,000 vehicles per day street was considered Light Street, 8,000 traveled on
Medium Street and 16,000 vehicles passing down Heavy Street.  His research showed that residents of Light Street had three more friends and twice as many acquaintances as the people on Heavy Street.  Further, as traffic volume increases, the space people considered to be their territory shrank. Appleyard suggested that these results were related, indicating that residents on Heavy Street had less friends and acquaintances precisely because there was less home territory (exchange space) in which to interact socially.
7 (D. Appleyard, 1981)
8 (Elizabeth Press, 2010)

Perspectives of Appleyard:

Livable Streets:

After the initial research study in San Francisco, Appleyard made a general deduction: Light Street was a closely knit community.  Front steps were used for sitting and chatting, sidewalks for children to play and for adults to stand and pass the time of day, especially around the corner store, and the roadway for children and teenagers to play more active games like football.  Moreover, the street was seen as a whole and no part was out of bounds.  Heavy Street, on the other hand, had little or no sidewalk activity and was
used solely as a corridor between the sanctuary of individual homes and the outside world. Residents kept very much to themselves, and there was virtually no feeling of community.  The difference in the perceptions and experience of children and the elderly across the two streets was especially striking.

Annotative Image Mapping:

He (Appleyard) was one of the first people to use annotative image mapping.  This is a research tool used for examining particular transportation and planning issues.  Residents were presented a base map of their neighbourhood’s building footprints and a companion image of the streetscape.  Pieces of tracing paper were laid over the building footprint section of the map, allowing the participants to respond, by drawing directly on these pieces of paper, to question regarding their feelings about their home territory and
their neighbouring patterns.  Appleyard was thus able to capture and compare the environmental perceptions of residents from various streets.  These maps were effective at getting people to speak freely about their perceptions, views and feelings of their street and neighbourhood.  Through a companion survey, the participants were asked additional questions about how traffic affected such things as tenure rates, preferences and comfort levels.  The image maps also served to display collective images of all responses, visually conveying the study findings.

Identity; Power; Place:

Appleyard has written about the various stakeholders involved in the everyday making and planning of places, neighborhoods and cities.  He boldly expressed the power differences that, too often govern place-making processes, when decisions are made by and in the interest of the socially, mentally, and physically strongest and solutions are evaluated for economic short term benefit only.  He was outspoken about the importance of truly democratic, bottom-up place-making, asserting that all parties that have an interest in a place need to contribute to decision-making, and that weaker parties need to be ensured that their interests are fully represented.  Appleyard emphasised that on downtown streets where power differences are greatest, weighted priority should be given to groups that take up less space but greatly enhance public life and interaction, namely small establishments, pedestrians and those who have no choice but to be there.

9 (D. Appleyard, A. Jacobs, 1982/1987)

Appleyard’s research in these three streets of San Francisco showed that:

Heavy Traffic Street (16 000 vehicles/day) occupants had 0.9 friends/persons and 3.1 acquaintances/persons.  Moderate Traffic Street (8 000 vehicles/day) had 1.2 friends/person and 4.1 acquaintances/persons and Light Traffic Street had 3 friends/person and 6.3 acquaintances/persons.

Appleyard was interested not only in the city’s built and open spaces, but also in the connections between them – the links, the systems within which they move form place-to-place.  Appleyard completed a number of studies on transportation networks, traffic, and streets.  Each is scrutinised primarily in terms of its impact on the community, especially the neighbourhood.  A key notion underlying these studies is that the
street’s livability is central to that of the neighbourhood, implying that it is vital to consider transportation networks not only as functional circulation systems, but as living environments in their own right.

Through the study of Donald Appleyard, one can pick up on his ideology and thinking.  His research in urban planning from road-sides to macro city road layouts has been unparalleled and his book “Liveable Streets” may be regarded as the most important and influential research-based books in the past forty (40) years.

Large area planning should be scrapped and replaced with small area planning where more thought goes into smaller things such as pedestrian pathways and bicycle lanes.  Main arterial roads should be broken into boulevards with lanes of trees to change and challenge the big solutions, roads, wide intersections and parking lots into smaller solutions, smaller narrower roads, bicycle lanes, pavements and transit.  Access roads to malls should be removed and access to corner (local) markets should be increased and celebrated.  Access should always be a place-based idea and should never be based on standards.  The notion of “performance is about mobility” should change to “performance is about access and sense of place”.  Appleyard looked at terribly designed streets and saw an opportunity to enhance its design and, every-time it came down to transportation – the type of transport, the amount of transport traffic, etc.  It is clear that the transportation system requires a paradigm shift in order to produce more liveable streets with better quality of lie and general happiness and a better world.

i D E O      Good places bread healthy activity
L O G Y     People attract people attract people
It takes a place to create a community;
a community to create a place


1 A.B. Jacobs, C.C. Cooper-Marcus, T.G. Dickert, 2011, “Donald Appleyard, City and Regional Planning; Landscape Architecture: Berkeley”, in calisphere,
viewed on 7 May 2018, from

2 World Streets 2.0: The Politics of Transport in Cities, 20 December 2011, “Remembering Donald Appleyard”, in World Streets, viewed on 6 May 2018, from

3 D. Appleyard, K. Lynch, J.Myer, 1963, “The View from The Road”, viewed on 6 May 2018

4 Infrascape Design, 13 July 2010, “The View from The Road”, in Infrascape Design, viewed on 6 May 2018, from

5 D. Appleyard, 1967, “Planning a Pluralistic City”, viewed on 5 May 2018

6 Mitpress, n.d., “Planning a Pluralistic City”, in Mitpress, viewed on 5 May 2018, from

7 D. Appleyard, 1981, “Livable Streets”, viewed on 5 May 2018

8 Elizabeth Press, 1 November 2010, “Revisiting Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets”, in Streetfilms, viewed on 8 May 2018, from

9 D. Appleyard, A. Jacobs, 1982/1987, “Toward an Urban Design Manifesto”, viewed on 10 May 2018


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