Flat public spaces

There is a school of thought that suggests we over-design our urban spaces, particularly roads. Too many signs, too many curbs, too many traffic lights, all serve to disengage the motorist. Remove all that, leave the space “naked”, with fewer clues about what to do, mix the pedestrians and motorists, and everyone will be mutually respectful. The rule of eye contact and courtesy replaces rulebooks and enforcement.

A good place to try something like this might be very short dead end streets. They have little traffic volume, low speeds, and presumably most of the motorists live on the street too. A flat street might be cheaper too, without curbs, raised sidewalks, the plethora of signs we seem to need,  and other expensive formal features.

I have suggested that Perkins or [lower] Empress might be good places to try this, given that the city is planning reconstruction of these streets in the next few years. Alas, no interest from our city at all. I suspect that something like this might work on the dead end streets off Preston, such as Norman, where condo developers will be dropping big bucks and might buy into the idea of a landscaped courtyard environment instead of a conventional street blighted by front yard parking.

Here’s an example from Germany: flat curbs and markings suggest uses of particular spaces. The signs are portable, anyone can change their location. The flower pots are easily rearranged too. And this town is in snow country. Now these pavements were new, so maybe the signs were yet to come … but it is essentially a naked street, with flat curbs demarked by paver pattern, as were the pedestrian, parking, and through traffic areas.

Worth trying in Ottawa? Naah.

europe 2013 290

2 thoughts on “Flat public spaces

  1. I live on lower Empress and I think that this would be a fantastic idea. Pedestrians don’t use the sidewalk here anyways.

  2. I love this. I’d really love to see one of Ottawa’s urban main streets re-designed this way. Maybe Byward Market after the LRT renovations.

Comments are closed.