Street life. The great outdoors, but not the natural outdoors. But still outdoors. The last year or so has taught us the importance of spaces outside where we can socialize safely. For many of us when we think of public, outdoor spaces we think of green spaces, maybe at a push, blue spaces, but our streets? Not so much.
This may in part be the fault of attempts to demonize street life - we all love alfresco dining but dining that spills out onto the streets comes with many other issues, from hygiene concerns to obstruction issues. Over the years we have let cars and other vehicles claim our streets, as we walk less, drive more and neglect important outdoor and potential community spaces.
However with the need to be outdoors more, urban centres are beginning to rediscover the power of their streets to get people moving, and socialising and leading to a renewed interest in being creative with how we develop our streets to better the changing needs of urban residents.
Here is how cities and residents are reclaiming their streets -
Nature is back. So more green spaces is a positive, all cities need more of these. But a new approach to urban planning accepts that nature can be more closely intertwined with existing infrastructure and doesn’t necessarily require vast areas of land to bring value. Planting more trees along our streets, creating living corridors of green along our streets and roads, as well as more ambitious plans such as elevated parks are helping to align the natural and the man-made even within some of our busiest, and largest global cities.
Change is good. Urban planners and governments alike are waking up to the value of reinventing street life. Busy areas, once busy as retail centres are now quieter, and the perfect places to build something new. Streets can be pedestrianised, this is one of the most impactful and effective ways to turn streets into social and community spaces, and reinvented as spaces for the arts, for performances, for outdoor dining.
Community first. Reclaiming our streets also provides us with another way to build community spaces for everyone - those that are accessible and flexible. A pedestrianised street can be used for almost anything - be it the arts, education, or simply play. It can be used in a myriad of ways to meet the needs of a wide range of city residents even from day to day.
Prioritizing sustainability. There is no future, for our cities, for any of us, without building an approach to urban planning that puts a sustainable lifestyle at the centre of it. How do we do this? We use our streets to bring back micro mobility. What does this mean? It means promoting measures and initiatives that get us moving around our cities on foot or by bike. Making us less reliant on energy guzzling forms of transport, and making us fitter at the same time.
How are cities achieving all of this?
Different cities are taking different approaches, although all recognize the need to transform, change and grow with the times. This is after all what cities do and have done for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Here are some of the initiatives some cities around the world are taking in order to reclaim street life, build agile community spaces and to help to continue to allow urban centres and communities to flourish for many years to come.
Buenos Aires has made the decision to pedestrianise around 100 streets, in a bid to encourage residents from different neighbourhoods to move between their communities and forge new ones. In Tel Aviv a similar approach was taken with the pedestrianisation of 11 popular streets in order to boost local businesses and encourage sustainable modes of transport and mobility. In Brighton, the usually very busy Madeira Drive was also recently closed to traffic and pedestrians and cyclists were given unfettered access.
In New York, over 160KM of streets were recently opened up to pedestrians, most of them in low socio-economic areas, so as to democratize access to other parts of the city and to provide much needed outdoor and recreational spaces for residents and thus turning the streets into valuable community spaces for everyone.
In many cities there is still a lot that can be done to rejuvenate and reinvent street life - placing the street back at the heart of our communities and transforming it into a much needed, flexible community space for all.
At Vonder our all in one living experience prioritises community over everything.