Rethinking city streets

It’s time to make our streets safer for everyone, purple creatures included.

The United States may be one the most motorized societies in the world but it is also witnessing a profound cultural transformation regarding the way city planners deal with the issue of transportation and its consequences on urban planning and street design. Streetfilms is a good starting place to discover many case-studies and good practice examples on a wide array of topics such as traffic calming , car-free design and pedestrian safety.

One of its latest videos – Fixing the Great Mistake: Autocentric Development – reveals the historical consequences of the implementation of wide roadways in New York in the first half of the 20th century. In the 1930’s and 40’s, virtually all major car lanes in the city were widened and the public sidewalks become greatly reduced, raising heated reactions from local residents.
Currently, the public administration is promoting a series of strategies to correct the mistakes inherited from decades of auto-centric development, to reclaim public space and improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. The revision of Times Square and the expansion of NYC’s Bike Network are the most visible projects of this undergoing urban design revolution.

San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks proposal is another interesting initiative – see People, Parklets, and Pavement to Parks. This urban program is promoting the conversion of parking areas into outdoor public spaces and cafes as an attempt to support commerce and social life in the local community.

The city of San Francisco has been developing a long-term plan towards sustainable mobility since 2006. The Better Streets Plan is a remarkable example of systematic codification of street typologies and urban practices. Its aim is to promote sustainable habits regarding transport in the urban neighborhood, establishing new forms of street design that invite multiple uses, including safe, active and ample spaces for pedestrians, bicycles and public transit. Access the Better Streets documentation page and download the plan draft to find more about it.