How would our neighborhoods change if a majority of the streetscape were not used primarily as storage for cars?
Children playing a game of pick-up soccer
Older people strolling by and sitting on stoops
Couples passing on bikes
Toddlers free to walk and fall without worry
Benches full of teenagers gossiping and giggling
Someone reading a book or a magazine
If we want our streets to be ALIVE we have to put people first and reconsider that instead of being co-opted as parking lots for rarely used cars, they could be thriving centers of city life.
The hillside town of Spoleto, Italy is a challenge to walk. Imagine beautiful continuous, steep hills throughout the historical center.
As residents began to abandon the hassles of parking in the older town for the new malls in the peripheral areas, the Spoleto city planning department went to work brainstorming ideas to invite folks of all ages to visit, shop and live in “centro storico”.
So what did they do to motivate residents and tourists to walk those steep hills? The city invested significant funds into creating alternative mobility, which dis-incentivizes cars and motivates priority for pedestrians:
- created multiple underground parking right outside of town with a connected moving walking, protective from the elements of weather
- developed a system of these protective moving walkways, allowing residents in town to traverse one level of the city to another
- designed well place maps to indicate walking paths, directions and distances between sights and streets
- built a beautiful, extended outdoor escalator system, placed alongside the ancient walls of the city, providing breathtaking views
From 8 to 80 years old, anyone can access and enjoy this Umbrian town by leaving the car behind and going for a walk.
Photo credit: Aminah Ricks
What makes a street attractive? What provides the invitation to stroll or linger?
Is it the placement of trees that line the street, the storefronts which have glass facades revealing what lies inside or the urban furniture that creates an outdoor living room. Low rise buildings vs high rises, create density while not overwhelming pedestrians with their heights, opening a view of blue sky.
A great street is all this and more, and even if we can’t exactly describe the magic combination, we know it when we walk it.
Photography Credit: Aminah Ricks