Regional and Urban Design Committee

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The Regional and Urban Design Committee (RUDC) aims to improve the quality of the regional and urban environment by promoting excellence in design, planning, and public policy in the built environment. This will be achieved through its member and public education, in concert with allied community and professional groups. Join us!

Slow Streets: Tactical Urbanism as a Health Initiative - Here to Stay?

  • 1.  Slow Streets: Tactical Urbanism as a Health Initiative - Here to Stay?

    Posted 11 days ago


    While many office commuters hunkered down in their home and kept their cars in the driveway a movement swept across the United States like wildfire. Its name: "Slow Streets". COVID boosted the insight that streets are not just for driving!

    San Francisco street eating (Photo: Harnock)

    What would take years in the normal bureaucratic grist mill of local traffic planning was churned out within weeks of the initial lockdown last spring. Before motorists or residents could think twice, they faced makeshift barricades on their local streets that looked like some "tactical urbanists" would have nailed them together overnight. That wouldn't far from the truth. 

    Once again, COVID has accelerated something that was happening for some while. 40 or so years after the Dutch introduced the concept of the Woonerf , where pedestrians and playing children have the right of way even in the middle of the street on small, especially signed residential streets, Americans coined the term "complete street" and awoke to the recognition that even city streets must be, and can be, more than being a conduit for commuters steering their cars from or to work. 

    In the broadest sense the re-distribution of street space touches on the big urban issues of our time: Who controls our daily spaces? What is public and what is private and what are the mechanisms how urban space is assigned? To whom and to whose benefit?

    "Space is not a scientific object removed from ideology or politics. It has always been political and strategic. There is an ideology of space. Because space, which seems homogeneous, which appears as a whole in its objectivity, in its pure form, such as we determine it, is a social product." ― Henri Lefebvre "The Production of Space"

    The "Slow Street" came concept came overnight. Tabitha Combs of counted over 632 "mobility actions" in the US alone that responded to the pandemic by devoting street space for social distancing and healthy outdoor activities such as walking, biking or outdoor eating. Several cities received grants to implement their programs.

    L.A. Slow Streets. (Photo: Treece)

    The Transportation Research Board, an extension of the National Academy of Sciences, dedicated...[....]  READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD