What is the purpose of a street?
Most people would say its primary purpose is for vehicular traffic and while this may now be the case - it certainly wasn't the original intent.
The fact that we have allowed this change has likely affected us more than we think.
I have some pictures of me as a child out playing in the street - in fact, the Canadian image of kids playing road hockey is predicated on the street being safe!
If you live in a suburban neighbourhood - chances are your streets are quite large, even up to 40ft sometimes more!
That's large!

Large streets are NOT safer, in fact, they encourage speed. Do a test - drive down a suburban street without looking at your speedometer - then drive down a really narrow street - to find one you may have to go to a city - now check your speed in both instances. You'll be driving naturally slower on a narrower street, I guarantee it. And slower streets are safer streets. When we lived in Hamilton, we lived downtown on an old street - circa 1920's or before. The street was narrow. You could only park on oneside - and we loved it! We played football on the street, hockey, catch - you name it. People drove slow and it was nice. Can't do that in suburbia. Not typical suburbia anyway.

The Village has safe streets. In fact the street width in the Village is 26ft which is proven by independent traffic studies to be the safest street width available. Neat - and good for my five kids!

You see, streets are public spaces. In fact, check out this quote from wikipedia, "..but city residents and urban planners draw a crucial modern distinction: a road's main function is transportation, while streets facilitate public interaction." Public interaction!
Does your street facilitate public interaction? Mine does. Mine sets a priority, cars are necessary, but not the focus of my village. The focus is people. Viewing our neighbourhood from a pedestrian viewpoint instead of a vehicular viewpoint makes for some unique decisions when you are planning streets.

In the Village, you are going to find that the street is a public space. It is more comfortable to walk it then drive it and that's the plan! Houses are situated close to the street so that the human scale becomes more accentuated. Driveways and garages are in the rear of the house because a house is for people, not cars! There are lots of trees - and you walk close enough to your neighbours porch that you have the pleasure of interacting with several people when you walk the dog.

There's more about streets that we need to look at.
Vista terminations, vehicle dispersal, interconnected networks... so we'll look at those next.

In the meantime, see how you feel about telling your kids to go play in the street in your neighbourhood.

Bookmark and Share