For decades the human dimension has been an overlooked and haphazardly addressed urban planning topic, while many other issues, such as accommodating the rocketing rise of car traffic, have come more strongly into focus. In addition, dominant planning ideologies – modernism in particular – have specifically put a low priority on public space, pedestrianism and the role of city space as a meeting place for urban dwellers.
– Jan Gehl, Cities for People
As corrective to this development, the livable cities movement has been taking shape ever since Jane Jacobs wrote “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”. Livability means healthy citizens and a healthier environment for Evanston. Livable streets are the building blocks of a livable city. At minimum, two things are necessary for livable streets: slow traffic speeds and placemaking. When calm traffic is combined with a sense of place, what happens is a living street. In such a street, you can not only travel through it, but will want to linger in it- to shop, to meet friends, to go for a stroll.
Cities around the world are seeking to mitigate the detrimental effects of excessive motorized traffic and insufficient safe, enjoyable public spaces. Motorized vehicles are a major source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and excessive motorized traffic contributes to lower air quality, lower quality of life and shortened life spans. Because of this predicament, the “open” street has become necessary as a corrective. By removing all motorized traffic and making our streets safe and enjoyable places for people to bike, walk, and play, open streets are powerful tools to encourage a culture of greener, healthier transportation. These forms of active transportation improve health, reduce harmful emissions, and create a safer, friendlier, more vibrant public realm, which in turn encourages more walking and biking.
Streets Alive also encourages the community to collectively reimagine and repurpose our precious public spaces. Although car-free streets are temporary, they help us visualize different ways to use these spaces, and they demonstrate the pent-up demand for permanently safe, complete streets and vibrant, people-oriented open spaces.