What will our world look like when the sharing revolution takes to the streets? First of all, in a world where there are carsharing programs, neighbors sharing cars, carpooling, dynamic ridesharing programs, bikesharing, and better public transportation, each household could probably get by with one car, as opposed to 2.28, the national average. That would mean half as many cars parked on the streets, much less traffic, and a lot of potential to get rid of some streets.
Why cut out some of our streets? There are many reasons, and here's a few:
- Isolated neighbors. The more traffic on a street, the less likely parents will allow their kids to play outside, the less likely neighbors are to have ever met each other.
- Sleepless nights. People get a better night's sleep when they live on a quiet street.
- Runaway water. Streets interrupt the natural flow and percolation of water by creating impervious surfaces. Fewer paved streets would allow water to penetrate the soil, reducing storm floods and polluted run-off, and promoting healthy groundwater supplies.
- Hot hot hot. Asphalt absorbs the heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect, and tempting people to fry eggs on the pavement to see if it really works.
- Crash. Wider streets make people drive faster, which makes for more accidents.
Now what happens if you take that grid and plunk a park down in the middle of some of the intersections? You get a neighborhood full of fun parks that are also quiet because they are surrounded on four sides by cul-de-sacs (see graphic below). You get many more quiet streets (in grey) and relegate the thru-traffic to a few streets (in black). These aren't just typical cul-de-sacs where it feels like a private and isolated dead-end road. Pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, and scooter-ers can all pass through easily. Does this look like a fun neighborhood?
Grey = Quiet Streets; Black = Busier Streets; Green = Fun Parks!
Ready to transform our neighborhoods? Check out these great resources:
- "Depaving the World," an article by Richard Register, an ecological city designer and planner.
- Intersection Repair, a Project of City Repair, which guides citizen-led projects to convert urban street interesections into public squares.
- The Project for Public Spaces "Streets as Places" Initiative, which seeks to "reshape the planning and design of transportation networks and streets to promote and support economic vitality, civic engagement, human health, and environmental sustainability, while simultaneously meeting peoples' mobility needs."
- Read more about activist and urbanist Jane Jacobs.
- Visit Depave.org