From a just sustainabilities perspective, my interest in streets is in spatial justice (Spatial Justice on Södra Vägen) and how it can help in the democratization of streets (Democratizing streetscapes: Rethinking streets as public spaces). This democratization is demonstrated in the growing number of cities with successful road space reclamation and re-allocation schemes which favor pedestrians, cyclists and public transit. Such schemes are described by the increasingly prominent and related U.S. discourses of Complete Streets, Transit Oriented Development and Livable Streets. Combined, this narrative frames the message that streets are, ultimately public spaces, and that everyone in local communities should have equal rights to space within them, irrespective of who they are and whether or not they own a car.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about public spaces and spatial justice (which “links together social justice and space”). Two books have greatly influenced my thinking on this. In his book, Convivial Urban Spaces (Earthscan 2008), Henry Shaftoe talks of inclusive and exclusive urban spaces. Inclusive spaces he argues are the aim of “the New Urbanists, Urban Villagers and 24 Hour City people who want to ‘crowd out crime’ through mixed use and maximizing activity in public areas”.
Exclusive spaces, by contrast are the domain of “the ‘designing out crime’ proselytizers who seek closure and limitation of use of spaces”.
Sitting outside in the July sun at Frank’s Coffee, on Södra Vägen in Göteborg, Sweden is very different from sitting outside in the sun at Simon’s, on Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, US. OK, so the coffee’s much better at Simon’s, but in this blog entry, the coffee is not my main concern. I’m interested in the spatial dynamics of the street outside each cafe: Södra Vägen (South Street in English) and Massachusetts Avenue. At Frank’s and Simon’s, the streets are roughly the same width, but the streetscape is very different. See for yourself: click the link for each (Frank’s, Simon’s), click the red push pin, then click “street view” and do a 360 turn.)