Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Placemaking : New York City and Pasadena

There is a short piece in last week's New York Times Magazine, "Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart After All," about how Rutgers Professor Keith Hampton repeated place observation studies of Bryant Park and other places conducted by the Project for Public Spaces around 1980.  The original studies were the foundation for modern understandings about how people use spaces, how to manage spaces for activation, etc.
Photo of Bryant Park by Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times.

Hampton argues that it isn't true that digital devices disconnect people from public places, that while it is true that people who use smartphones and the like tend to stay longer in one place than people who don't, overall there is more participation and more connection in those spaces today than there was 30 years ago.

His other observation is that comparatively, far more women are out and about in these places today than they were in 1980--a time when urban areas, Bryant Park specifically, which was known as a place to buy drugs, were not safe.  (Also see "The presence of women as indicators of revitalization success" and "The presence of women as an indicator of healthy public spaces.")

2.  The Los Angeles Times writes about a pedestrianization program for Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena ("Making Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard a haven for pedestrians").  This is interesting because they are going to reduce the space dedicated to the street (cars) so that they can widen the sidewalks and create parklets.  From the article:
From the very beginning, Colorado Boulevard was all about the car. Pasadena residents so loved their Ford Model Ts that in 1915 the city was said to have the highest rate of automobile ownership in the world. Colorado was a leg in the famed Route 66 and evolved along with the car culture, with roadside businesses giving way to bigger department stores and eventually to shopping centers.
But these days, officials want to tame the famed street.

Pasadena is considering plans to narrow portions of Colorado by as much as two lanes and use that space to widen sidewalks and create tiny parks with seating and greenery. The proposal has generated wide support among some city leaders and is expected to go before the City Council soon.
I wrote about Colorado Blvd. a bit in 2012 ("A diagonal crosswalk ("pedestrian scramble") intersection in Pasadena, California").

And I made the point that the sidewalks were too narrow for the volume of pedestrians.  You can't see that from this image, which is of a high quality treatment of a Barnes Dance intersection (DC has a similar type of intersection at 7th and H Streets NW but without a high quality treatment).

It's nice to see that they are recognizing that and aim to make necessary changes to better balance pedestrian mobility needs with other modes.

Some of DC's most actively pedestrianized spaces are M Street NW in Georgetown, 18th Street NW in Adams-Morgan, and 8th Street SE in Capitol Hill--at least on the weekends.

Around 2000, for the time, DC introduced a pathbreaking approach to streetscape improvement with better lighting, improved sidewalk materials, permeable treatments for treeboxes, improved plantings, etc.

BUT for the most part, widening the sidewalk wasn't part of the program.

Now, DC's approach to streetscape improvement is no longer best practice, it hasn't been for 5 years or more ("It's time for a new 'City Beautiful' Movement in DC").  SF's Livable Streets program ("San Francisco Sustainable Mobility Agenda presentation"), various initiatives in New York City, parklet projects are booming across North America as are "Open Streets" initiatives like Ciclavia in Los Angeles which bring out hundreds of thousands of participants, and New York City has introduced 20mph speed zones in neighborhoods.

Riders make their way east down 7th Street near MacArthur Park during the 4th Annual CicLAvia on April 16, 2012. Inspired by Ciclovia, the original weekly street closure event in Bogata, Columbia, CicLAvia opens LA streets to bicyclists and pedestrians, creating a temporary web of public space. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times).

Left:  New York City has created 20mph "slow zones" in neighborhoods across the city.  See "City Greenlights 13 Slow Zones to Make Streets Safer" from DNAInfo.

 Hopefully we can catch up to Pasadena...  but the basic point is to re-focus transportation policies, priorities, and investments towards pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users, especially when these modes are dominant as they so often are in urban places like Pasadena or DC.

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At 7:15 AM, Blogger IMGoph said...

(the first and next-to-last photos aren't displaying for me. says they are private and i don't have permission to view.)

i would love an explanation from DDOT why they never tried to make the Barnes Dance at 7th and H more visible, like at least painting zebra stripes across it. unfortunately, the agency is tight-lipped, so i wouldn't expect an answer if i tried.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. you're up early.

2. Flickr has changed the way they do things when you copy code for embedding. They used to allow you to have "guesting" so to speak, because photos that aren't mine, within my photostream I restrict their visibility because I don't have the copyright.

3. But if I download the photo and insert it should work, so I'll change it.

4. wrt DDOT, I've complained in writing about that intersection a lot, especially because on GA Ave. at Kansas they've cross-hatched the entire intersection, although I think that the pavement markings will wear pretty quickly.

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The other problem is that I have my own photos of these places (Colorado Blvd., the Neighborhood Slow Zone signage in NYC) but I have thousands of photos spread across a few computers, all of which are not working well now (need more RAM or a new screen for a laptop), which haven't been uploaded to flickr and or coded.

I used to use eye fi, which uploaded photos automatically, but that card died and I didn't get another one...


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