How Halloween can help us determine how well communities are designed

Halloween is a remarkable time of year for so many reasons: there are hundreds of fun costumes walking the streets, delicious candy around each corner and pumpkins carved into every shape imaginable. It’s the perfect excuse to spend more time outside exploring the city. Now we know trick-or-treating is all about the candy, but it also allows you to discover new neighbourhoods and experience their design.


Everyone targets particular neighbourhoods each Halloween – why is this? Sure, some neighbourhoods give out better treats, but kids and families will generally choose areas that are friendly, close-together and therefore walkable. The Trick-or-Treat Test, created years ago, was used to determine exactly this. Neighbourhoods with accessible doorways located on safe streets are sought after. Some people refer to this as ‘Halloween Door Density.’ The houses are easy to access and are located in neighbourhoods deemed ‘safe’ for running around, aka trick-or-treating.


So, the real question is: how do you judge a neighbourhood on its ‘trick-or-treat-ability’? Well, you judge it the same way you would judge a good neighbourhood from a bad one:


  •  Front doors are easily seen from the street and not blocked by a large garage.
  • Homes have good visual lines to the street through large windows and open yards.
  • Streets are lined with trees and encourage walking rather than driving.
  • Community is dense enough for homes to be congregated but not too dense so that doors are difficult to find.


These factors make for walkable, open, friendly communities year-round and therefore, great trick-or-treating neighbourhoods. Another thing Halloween can help you determine is the desirability of the neighbourhood based on the number of children running around in costumes. Costume-filled streets can tell you two things:


  1. Families find the area and the residents safe enough to allow their children to explore and accept candy.
  2. It’s possible that the children were driven into the neighbourhood from other areas due to the Halloween Door Density.


Now this second one is hard to prove, unless you know your community very well or you see children being dropped off by parents. However, if the children are being driven in, that simply proves the area’s attractiveness (unless the community is affluent and each house is giving out exceptional goodies to the children – which in this case, we already know Halloween is all about the candy!).


Some families have started trick-or-treating in malls or designated parking lots where families go set up a vehicle to create ‘safe environments’ for their children and avoid the urban sprawl of the suburbs. However, many suburbs are now developed with the Halloween Door Density concept in mind, keeping doors closer together and out in the open to attract families to the quiet, safe communities with few cars on the streets and plenty of room to run.


We recommend trick-or-treating with a fresh set of eyes this Halloween season. Which areas are the busiest? What neighbourhood did you feel safest in? Why? Asking these questions will lead to further discussions on neighbourhood design, development and demographics, all while enjoying your favourite candy bar.


Happy Halloween Calgary!