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Want A Glimpse Of The Future? Check Out Your City’s Open Streets Program

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Exploring the Rise of Pedestrian-Friendly Streets

During the pandemic, one of the few positives about urban living was the sudden boom in outdoor dining brought about by local governments relaxing restrictions so restaurants could continue doing business despite social distancing restrictions. Many times, streets would be closed off to make blocks pedestrian-only, so that tables could spill out onto the streets and give patrons (and restaurant staff) more room to operate.
If you had the chance to experience such a scenario, you probably found yourself thinking something along the lines of “the city should let us take over the streets more often.” And you wouldn’t be alone! The good news? Many city planners and politicians apparently felt the same way.

Embracing Pedestrian-Friendly Urban Spaces

A number of cities in the US and Canada have an “open streets” program, where downtown areas are closed to all but pedestrian traffic for a certain period of time. The results have been astounding, with people gathering to enjoy the shops, restaurants, and other amenities readily offered by urban living.
These open streets programs are a teaser of what the Smart City initiatives promise – a more pedestrian-friendly urban experience that makes use of the city’s ample outdoor space to provide a higher quality of life. However, as you may have noticed, turning the streets over to the people instead of their cars requires a lot of planning when it comes to parking.

Redefining Urban Parking for Smart Cities

It’s this reason that so many Smart City planners list parking as one of their primary concerns in coming up with their visions for the future. But it’s also a great example of just what sort of collateral gains are made possible by improving the overall parking situation in a city. Because the truth is, easier parking means less traffic. Less traffic means more room for pedestrians. And more room for pedestrians means more opportunities for outside dining and the other perks that come from open streets. When you think about it, it all starts with finding smarter places to put their empty cars.

Get Involved: Supporting Open Streets Initiatives

If you’re a fan of the open streets idea, we highly recommend tapping into your city’s local open streets program. Oftentimes, these street-closing events are the result of sustained efforts by groups of private citizens. And, like any community initiative, these groups could always use more help. Volunteer to pitch in with such a program, and suddenly you’re helping to usher in a positive change in your city. Plus, since you read this blog you’ll most likely have an immediate role as the “parking expert” on any committee.

There’s something unique about the pedestrian-only city experience. It’s at once a glimpse into the future and to the far past, before countless automobiles clogged up streets designed for foot traffic and the occasional horse. Without the constant noise of engines and horns, you can hear the way human voices echo off the buildings in conversation. Without the stink of exhaust, you can actually catch the aromas coming out of that corner bakery. And to think that it all starts with finding a smarter way for people to park.

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