Sharing the Street: Shared Space in an American Context
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As our cities' foremost form of public space, streets play an integral role in social interaction. However, since the age of the automobile, streets have become more about providing conduits for transportation rather than public spaces for people. Trends such as pedestrian streets and complete streets have focused on multi-modal mobility in an effort to deemphasize the dominance of automobiles on streets. Similarly, shared space strives to accommodate all modes of transportation by deemphasizing the automobile and converting streets back into spaces for people. Shared space promotes design and behavior modification strategies to reinvigorate street life for all users, not just automobiles. Ultimately, the concept of shared space strives to repurpose streets into spaces for people to safely gather, socialize, and play, thus contributing to overall neighborhood well-being. Originally a European concept, and still nascent in the United States, this study examines shared space in an American context. Three recent examples of shared space in the United States are studied: Bell Street Park in Seattle, WA; Davis Street in Portland, OR; and Santana Row Promenade in San Jose, CA. Combined with a review of shared space and public space best practices, this case study examination reveals how shared space functions in an American context, and what can be done to improve future shared space endeavors. Results of the study indicate that many basic shared space principles - removal of traffic signage and markings, removal of curbs, installation of consistent paving - help to reduce traffic speeds and accommodate other modes of transportation such as walking and biking. However, these design prescriptions must also be packaged with appropriate land uses, building design strategies, and space programming to ensure an active street life. Vibrant shared spaces are just as reliant on an active off-street environment as they are on on-street design strategies.
- Urban planning