Making streets livable

Streets take up an enormous amount of our public space. Currently, we dedicate most of our public space to moving and storing automobiles.

In the Dalhousie neighborhood, on Elm Street, there is a little park due for a city refurbishment in 2012. At the public meeting, and again in correspondence, I suggested that if the park is so small, if the neighborhood is really short of greenspace, if it is economically impractical to buy new parkland for millions of dollars, then why don’t we do something simple like remove some of the street in front of the park and turn it into more park. I initially suggested that expansion go out to the centre line of the street, but just taking the parking lane would be an improvement.

Initially the City was unenthused about this, seeing their parks mandate limited to city-owned dedicated park land, but I hear word through the rumour mill that they are actually considering how this could be accomplished. Progressive minds at work!

We needn’t restrict ourselves to expanding actual parks like Elm Street or Eve Tremblay park. We could make road closures a bit larger: there is a five foot wide one on Elm west of Preston that could be expanded to be 100′ of parkette if redevelopment of the adjacent land — which is ripe for redevelopment — had its new vehicle entrances located mid-block instead of right by the barrier. A conveniently, the city is conducting a planning exercise for the street right now. Alas, the CDP planners seem this sort of instant-cheap-park planning as not quite in their version of the  neighborhood planning mandate.

(Above: trust children to know what can be done to asphalt…)

We could also reclaim streets in other innocuous locations that won’t threaten motorists’ tender egos, you know, “waging war on cars”. We could start with deadends or stub end streets, of which the west side abounds. And some quiet intersections could be transformed from “purely car oriented” into something a lot more “public” simply by painting them (although how well the paint will hold up is an issue…).

Consider this example from Portland, Oregon:

Portland Intersection; photo by Donkeycart

Or this photo from Portland without the swarm of cyclists:

Sunnyside piazza, Portland, photo by DanielEtra

Of course, once the great unwashed public gets involved in street painting, the professional artists cannot be far behind, using asphalt as canvas:

Switzserland streetpainting, internet grab

And of course, there can br paintings designed to confuse and confound:

Bus stop in Bratislava; internet grab

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