This NPR story asks: Cul-de-Sacs: Suburban Dream or Dead End? I've never been a fan of Cul-de-Sacs. Neither have I bought into the argument that they are somehow safer. That argument now appears mythical, according to research cited in the story. In fact, says NPR,
"cul-de-sac communities turn out to have some of the highest rates of traffic accidents involving young children."
And of course, there's the automobile factor which is the peculiar curse of the modern suburb:
...there's the problem of having to drive your car almost everywhere. Or, in Speck's words, the uneasy feeling that "your car is no longer an instrument of freedom but a prosthetic device."
Driving is the only way to get from a typical cul-de-sac to a restaurant, a store or your office. And on the roads that funnel back to that main trunk, the traffic is usually awful.
But forget all that. I now have a new reason to despise cul-de-sacs: I am a rural mail carrier. On my main route there is one large development containing something like 250 houses. I deliver the entire monstrous thing, which contains no less than 8 of these instruments of torture. If it isn't obvious why a cul-de-sac would be so menacing, imagine trying to drive your car along the curbline to each mailbox in a cul-de-sac. Now imagine that one or two people have parked their cars at the curbline, so you need to get around them. If the problem is not apparent to you yet, find a cul-de-sac near you and try it.
So, I say to those planners in places like Portland who have banned new cul-de-sacs: good on you!