July 28, 2010

Bright ideas: How to narrow city streets

Los Angeles StreetWide streets send a clear message: We are for cars. Sidewalks seem to exist as an afterthought to the multiple lanes full of rushing, honking, exhaust-belching vehicles.

Narrow streets, by contrast, offer a more peaceful, intimate, and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere. By necessity, cars move more slowly. Proportionally, sidewalks are larger. A narrow street invites people to stroll, gather, and play.

Look at this striking contrast between a real Los Angeles street (left) and a digitally narrowed version of the same street (right):

Los Angeles Street Los Angeles Street

Which one would you rather walk on?

Real streets, unfortunately, cannot be altered in Photoshop. But narrowing a road is not as complex as you might think. Rebar, a San Francisco art and design collective, has created a bamboo-sheathed module that extends the sidewalk surface into the street and includes benches, planters, bike racks, or tables. Each module is about three feet wide and can be installed by two to four people, with minimal tools.

The project is currently in its pilot phase and is being tested on a San Francisco street for six months:

Walklet
Walklet
Walklet

Learn more about Walklets and Rebar.

 Photo credits (top to bottom):

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bright ideas, sidewalk, rebar, pedestrians, street games