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Car Dependence

TACTICAL URBANISM: Let’s Make More Plazas

Times Square is the best example of turning car space into public space. You can still see the segments of Broadway, now filled with people, in this shot looking downtown from the north side of the Crossroads of the World.

Hey tactical urbanists: Want to know a quick way to gain street space for people? Turns out that, even before COVID-19 drove restaurants across America out of doors, it wasn't too difficult to arrange an easy-peasy treatment that would turn an unneeded roadway (aren't they all?) into a perfectly serviceable pedestrian plaza. All you need is some paint, some planters, some bollards, and some street furniture — and a local partner to help maintain it.

There are "awkward intersections" — basically triangles of unused roadway — all over the country, just aching to be turned into lovely, safe spaces for people to congregate. With time, it's likely to become permanent. Let's go!

That's the message of "The quick way to make pedestrian plazas," a new video by City Beautiful, a YouTube channel that features the strategies of tactical urbanism for the edification of city planners and livable-streets advocates. It mixes boosterism with some helpful pointers, such as best practices for dealing with Americans With Disability Act requirements and businesses that need freight loading zones.

The video (below) was produced by Dave Amos, a researcher at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. It also functions as a panoramic tour of pedestrian plazas around the United States, starting with a "People Street" in the Sunset neighborhood in Los Angeles, to Tontine Crescent in Boston, to Times and Herald squares in New York and beyond.

In fact, Amos is so gung-ho about plazas that he invites viewers to help him compile a comprehensive American database of them; the hope is that the inventory will illuminate information and techniques that will inspire municipalities around the country to install more of them — thereby lessening our car dependence.

Submit an entry by filling out the form here. Follow Amos on Twitter at @CityBeautifulYT.

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