Think about your least favorite things that happen when you leave the house every morning. It could be the traffic that backs up along your street, maybe the car exhaust as you bike to work, the noise of the morning commute, maybe it’s how little you move during the day. Now imagine what a place might look like if pedestrian and automobile priority were flipped. What if we paid more attention to getting ourselves places, rather than our cars?
Let’s paint a picture, Bob Ross style, of this new concept. After you draw in the puffy clouds, picture yourself standing in the middle of a street. The painted lines and asphalt of the road have been replaced by a new material, maybe brick, cobblestone, rock, or just your standard cement.
Looking straight down this new street, people are walking around from store, to restaurant, to winery, with no cars in sight.
The noise your ears pickup is limited to conversations of passerby’s, music flowing down the corridor, and the wind gently shifting the trees.
You live a couple blocks from this street, but it doesn’t take long to get home because everything is much closer without the need to plan intersections, stoplights, crosswalks, or road width. When people move themselves, the destinations are closer together, yet somehow the environment is much quieter, much cleaner.
If I could pick just one principle, I think the best multi-use category lies with pedestrian priority.
Taking ourselves out of the over-dramatization of this painted picture, many cities are actually taking steps to prioritize people. The City of Salem has a great example in their pedestrian bridge, and Denver’s “LoDo” (or Lower Downtown) touts fantastic walkability scores. My favorite example by far, is Burlington’s Church Street. Church Street is a pedestrian only street that claims a vibrant stretch of festivals, music, restaurants, and even quiet places. Even our very own McMinnville isn’t far behind the trend with the recent opening of Alpine Avenue, and the famous Third Street.
Think about how your interactions with neighbors might change if a col-de-sac were to play the role of an extended front yard. What if there was a direct pedestrian path from your home to downtown without all the traffic?
When we prioritize pedestrians, we’re doing so much more. We’re raising the priorities of our health, diverse communities, kids, the environment, and removing barriers to bring people together.
"Great Neighborhood Principles" will help us explore what makes a neighborhood in