Jun 2, 2023 - News

How to talk to an urbanist

More than 1,300 urbanists have descended on Charlotte for the Congress for the New Urbanism, which takes place here through June 3.

Why it matters: It’s an honor to host the conference. Thousands of designers and planners traveled here to take notes on how Charlotte is growing, and we get to benefit from their expertise, too.

Zoom out: It’s tough to define what an urbanist is or exactly what they stand for. Generally, they want to scrap car-centric city designs — like suburban sprawl and expansive parking lots — in favor of dense areas with multi-family housing and functional public transit.

[Go deeper: Urbanists have big-city dreams. Charlotte has a car-centric reality]

If you happen to run into attendees this weekend, here’s some lingo you can use to impress them or join in on the conversation:

NIMBYs: A “not-in-my-backyard”-er, or someone who opposes development in or near their neighborhood.

YIMBYs: A development proponent.

Critical mass: A mob of cyclists, large enough to take over the entire road. Fun for bikers. Sometimes annoying for drivers.

Tactical urbanism: When citizens take it upon themselves to make urbanist-approved improvements to the city. Placing a hay bale at a bus stop counts.

Sprawl: An urbanist might associate this with wasting tax dollars or harming the planet.

Road diet: When you repurpose car lanes for cyclists or walkers.

UDO: Charlotte’s law book on development. A point of contention for city council.

TOD: Stands for transit-oriented development. Intended to encourage density in transit corridors, like South End.

Placemaking: Fancy-sounding word for putting seats, benches, tables and sometimes rocking chairs outside.

Induced demand: The well-researched yet highly disputed concept that traffic is incurable by widening highways — because it just makes it easier for people to drive. Can also explain the phenomenon that happens when Chick-fil-A expands its drive-thru.

Parking minimums: The number of parking spaces the local government requires developers to include in a project, adding to construction costs that may trickle down to tenants.

Car blindness: Unconsciously ignoring how much cars cost or how they damage the environment.

10-minute neighborhood: A scenario outlined in the UDO, in which everyone is able to access their daily needs within a quick walk, bike or transit ride.

Walkability: Not Charlotte’s strongest suit, according to at least one recent ranking.

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