Putting People in the Streets

I’ve observed before that some of Provo’s best spaces lack people. Sidewalks are often empty, streets are too quiet, and benches go unused. Apparently, Chicago has a similar problem.

The link in that last sentence goes to a Chicago Sun-Times article explaining how the mayor there is starting a new people-oriented campaign:

Determined to promote economic development and make Chicago streets safer for pedestrians, Mayor Rahm Emanuel got the ball rolling Wednesday on an innovative program he calls, “Make Way for People.”

Right off the bat this is an interesting effort because it’s operating under the assumption that getting people on the street has both economic and safety benefits.

As the article continues, it details efforts to use parking spots and too-wide streets as places for people to congregate and sit. The effort will also include mini-parks — presumably similar to the idea of urban gardens I brought up in this post — as well as alleyway seating, farmer’s markets, and more.

Interestingly, there’s a sense that the entire idea is an experiment:

“If it works for the community, it can be turned into a permanent amenity. If it doesn’t, it’s really easy to dismantle.”

Sidewalks and public spaces, not to mention alleys and parking lots, are wasted when not used by people. That means the community is spending money but getting a less-than-sufficient return on investment. As Chicago’s efforts demonstrate, there are ways to better use these kinds of city features while at the same time bolstering prosperity. The key, it would seem, is creativity and a willingness to experiment.

Sometimes Provo streets are filled with people, as Center Street was on a recent Friday night.

Other times, Provo’s streets remain empty. Chicago is currently engaging in a large experiment to solve this problem there.

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Filed under Development, Downtown, parking

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