Democratic Streets

Democratic Streets- By Derrick Newton

As these articles made clear, street planning is very complex due to the many nuances that must be adhered to for the value of the street to be beneficial to all in the environment. It is also clear to me that this is not solely an issue of the United States, though I can draw most of my examples from the issues that lay within our streets. Here in Perugia, we have a long way to go before the streets can be considered democratic. In a sense, I wonder if there is even a way to reach such a thing? Ensuring the streets possess something tangible for pedestrians; making them livable, accessible, diverse, safe, comfortable, ecological, and relatable for all that use them, not only pedestrians, but also vehicles; that’s a big ticket to deliver. It seems to me that urban societies are no longer focused on tying in these concepts and values within city planning anymore. It looks like the focus is on privatization and separation. If you notice, many neighborhoods target, or only represent one group, those who inhabit it. There is no room for movement or flow of different beings being welcomed into a new community. You immediately feel unwelcome. This applies for both directions of the socioeconomic ladder as well. The only time a group may be able to feel as if they belong or are welcomed by the streets is if they have the control that one of the article mentioned. To me this is a clear example of why streets are not very diverse or utilized by a popular majority. Ofter the control does not lie in the hands of the people but, those in a higher power, legislation and government. They decide what is where and how things are done. The article mentioned gentrification, a phenomena that happens so very often in the United States. Government and big business often push one group out in hopes of pleasing another, further perpetuating scripts of segregation. With that all being said, I believe there must be a good political system set in place to establish a  foundation that fosters the effective use of streets. To this day I can only think of one place that does that effectively, Copenhagen, Denmark.

I Recently visited Copenhagen and absolutely loved the city. One aspect that I enjoyed most was the use of the streets. Filled with pedestrians, bikers, cars, taxis, and buses, the streets were a lively place. The great thing was that it did not feel too crowed, nor to isolated. People were on the move and also had the opportunity to stop and take advantage of the space they occupied. The city seems to know exactly what their inhabitants want and need which makes the street planning work. A biking hub, Copenhagen basically has it own lane for its bikers and it definitely utilized. They have the pedestrian outdoor malls that are filled with happy voices and the swinging sounds of shop doors opening and closing. The streets also change as you venture into different parts of the city, taking into account that some areas have different needs and providing them with the proper resources. In my eyes these might have been the first “democratic streets” I’ve seen.

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