While the public street system makes up a huge portion of our public space, streets don’t contribute less to public life than they could, Denver Igarta of the Portland Bureau of Transportation told an OTREC seminar April 12 in Portland.
That’s not the case in Europe, said Igarta, a multimodal urban planner and a principal author of the Portland Bicycle Plan. He spent last November on a fellowship in Europe sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, with a week each in Munich, Rotterdam, Copenhagen and Malmö.
While street design manuals in the United States largely consider how directly and smoothly a street moves people along their route and to a destination, many European streets serve another official function, Igarta said: they encourage people to stay and live their public lives. European urban streets fill some of the same roles as American urban parks: attractive places to spend time.
This especially holds for small neighborhood streets, Igarta said, where moving traffic is secondary to fostering public life.
Igarta demonstrated the type of planning that can create livable streets with a comparison between German and American standards. Under Germany’s national street-construction manual, designers first consider whether the street’s highest emphasis should be on moving traffic, creating an attractive public place or parking. Other considerations then follow, Igarta said, including how wide to make the street.
In the United States, most...Read more