It's tempting to think of streets as negative but necessary space between all of the buildings that are the real heart of the city. While there might be strictly more square feet in buildings, streets are by far the single largest public space, vastly larger than parks, plazas, museums, restaurants, and any of the many other public spaces.
This leads to a few realizations:
- Small improvements to streets can have an outsized impact.
- While it might be hard to intimately know every park in a city, it's likely impossible to intimately know every block.
- The portion of streets allocated to each use tells a story about their relative importance. Are pedestrians more important than parking? Bicycles than cars? How many lanes does each get? Who feels safe?
- The values of the organization responsible for the streets will rub off on the streets, and by extension, the people using those streets. If the Department of Transportation cares about cars and car safety, what should we expect the people to care about?
Want to improve your city? Start with the street.