Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Complete Streets Restore Immediate Surroundings

The future is bright for humans moving through space. As we move back to a more body centered environment and away from the automobile centered 20th century, the quality of space increases dramatically.

When we slow down our movement through space our eyes pick up more information about our surroundings. Driving fast in a car, eyes can only pick up that there are some buildings or woods or parking lots around us. However, walking we begin to notice every little detail around us. Who cares what kind of elaborate trim detail is around that door or what the door joinery looks like at 35 miles per hour? Walking by our eyes scan and pass over the granite curb, every brick in the sidewalk, the craftsmanship in the wrought iron lamp post, the way the storefront glass meets the frame. And each door is a statement about design and care in the area.

Same with bicycling. Biking makes us notice every bump and object in our path as well as what each biker and each pedestrian is wearing. I believe the bike lane separated from the roadway entirely as shown above is best. Believe it or not, if complete separate bike lanes are available a kazillion more people will get out of their big nasty cars they can't park anyway and bike places. And kids can finally get around without chaperones. And one car families....

For a short video on complete streets in NYC: click here.

The slower you move the closer your field of awareness becomes. Because of this natural visual and sonorous and olfactorous heightened awareness of the near, we care about much smaller pieces of the built environment than when driving.

Freeway architecture can be big boxes of ribbon windowed office  buildings because we can only catch a glance at them. We are interested in 500 foot segments. Pedestrian architecture must be interesting at the 1 foot segment level. This means the more pedestrian environments we create, the better quality architecture and urban space will result.

Let the complete streets begin!


Bob Swinburne said...

add this into the mix as well
PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks.

Michael Belleau Architect said...

Thanks Bob. Micro-parks are neato. Complete streets for you would be if they paved your road- am I right? :-)

Bob Swinburne said...

off a dirt road, off a dirt road off a paved road 10 miles out of town. I think I saw a traffic today!

Michael Belleau Architect said...

Would be fun to do an energy analysis of difference between driving your car back and forth to work and if you had a horse you rode with feeding it, poop gas, etc. to see the CO2 diff and anything else.