Looking to create better streets in your community by using a Streets as Places approach?
From their width and character, to the uses of the buildings that line them and the presence or absence of features like benches, crosswalks, outdoor cafés, and awnings, the streets we walk alongside each day are the product of hundreds of decisions and actions, some big and some small, which have taken place over many years.
The sheer number of actors involved in shaping a street can be daunting (in New York City, nine public agencies alone have jurisdiction over sidewalk-related issues). But the large number of people, departments, and groups that impact a street’s design and activity also presents an opportunity for such entities to positively contribute to how our streets look, feel, and function.
While our first set of resources about Streets as Places focused on Principles, the following pages are all about actions – innovative efforts that individuals, communities, and governments across the world are undertaking in order to create great streets that work as shared public spaces and play an important role in the social and economic fabric of the areas they serve.
Through critical, government intervention alone isn’t enough to create a great street; it takes collaboration and partnerships between local businesses, institutions, and individuals. Streets as Places has been a driving force in the revitalization of Adelaide, Australia, for example – which London’s Sunday Times named the best place to live in the world in 2015. In 2010, the city began a “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” series, called “Splash Adelaide,” which launched easily implementable changes on many of Adelaide’s streets and public spaces – such as parties, outdoor film screenings, spontaneous orchestra performances, and urban vegetable gardens. In the program’s first year, local government led most of these efforts, but by its third year, they were completely facilitated and run by the community. On Melbourne Street, one of the City’s priorities for placemaking, businesses and local institutions are leading the way: a local hotel has brought in an artist to paint its façade; a Laundromat offers free Wi-Fi, a book exchange, and even occasional live music; and a café owner plans to cultivate lemon trees along the street, making its produce available to the public. “When people think about what Adelaide is and what it stands for,’ said Adelaide’s Lord Mayor Martin Haese, “how we use our city streets is really factoring into that… It becomes a competitive strength.”
Here are several everyday sites that present an opportunity for creating Streets as Places:
- The façade and edge of a building, when well-designed, can provide comfort, beauty, and interest for those experiencing a street.
- Front yards of a house or building can offer sites for retail displays, outdoor dining, public art, socialization, and children’s play.
- Sidewalks are a natural venue for street vending, performances, public art, wayfinding signage, and amenities that help create a comfortable, unique place for people.
- The space between a street’s curbs, traditionally used solely for vehicle traffic, can be used for temporary events – like festivals, play streets, open streets, block parties, parades, or markets – or converted to permanent pedestrian space, such as a plaza or parklet. It is also important to provide safe bicycling access and slower traffic speeds within these spaces.
- Intersections, often the location of traffic problems and safety concerns, can be places, too – through efforts like pavement painting, corner activations, safe crossings, and traffic calming.
Learn more about how you can create Streets as Places by contributing as an individual, community, or government agency, and help us add other examples to these pages! Add your suggestions in the comments section about how we can create streets that bring people together, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.