Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What Is a Sidewalk

Posted by on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 at 7:45 AM

According to Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, a sidewalk is not related to a street as much as it is related to a park. A street is all about transportation, movement from point to point. A sidewalk is much more than that. It is a public space; and a public space, to use Peñalosa's words, is...

“...for living, doing business, kissing, and playing. Its value can’t be measured with economics or mathematics; it must be felt with the soul... In my country, we are just learning that sidewalks are relatives of parks – not passing lanes for cars.”
A street has less soul than a sidewalk:
  • Autumn in Seattle


Comments (14) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
tainte 1
a street also has less dogshit than a sidewalk.
Posted by tainte on November 6, 2012 at 8:16 AM · Report this
Lissa 2
Oh thank you for this Charles. It is going to be a jungle of a day, and this has helped to calm my nerves.
Posted by Lissa on November 6, 2012 at 8:17 AM · Report this
It sounds like he shares perspectives with Jane Jacobs' discussions of sidewalks as public spaces that contribute to the health of communities. A second thank-you for the pleasant topics.
Posted by MemeGene on November 6, 2012 at 8:22 AM · Report this
This brings to mind an interesting NYT article about how the car changed our experience of cities, since pedestrians used to be much less confined to one narrow edge of the sidewalk-street-sidewalk expanse. I read it shortly after a visit to New York and enjoying the closed-to-traffic Times Square and a weekend market on Sixth Avenue amid ornate former department stores. Things look different from the middle!
Posted by avatar on November 6, 2012 at 8:29 AM · Report this
A sidewalk is for walking. It's on the SIDE of the street, so you can WALK. If you want to kiss and play, go to the park and get out of my way. I'm walkin' here.
Posted by jzimbert on November 6, 2012 at 8:56 AM · Report this
bedipped 6
You need to take the comma out of "It is a pubic space, and a public space"
Posted by bedipped on November 6, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
Fnarf 7
Sidewalks ARE public spaces, but so are streets. Sidewalks are PART of streets. The idea that streets are highways, for the rapid passage of vehicles and no other use, is morally and structurally wrong. Streets are where the life of the city takes place; they are where the life of the city is displayed. Shops and restaurants don't line parks; they line streets. Parks have their place; but that place is mostly empty, and it's not a place where life IS, it's a place where life GOES, every once in a while. Streets are where the action is. Sidewalks are part of streets.
Posted by Fnarf on November 6, 2012 at 9:20 AM · Report this
@3 I thought of Jane Jacobs as well. Nice wide sidewalks, so people can stop and chat, and not block other people walking through, greatly benefit their communities.
Posted by LMcGuff on November 6, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
Backyard Bombardier 9
"It is a pubic space..."

Best typo ever.
Posted by Backyard Bombardier on November 6, 2012 at 9:52 AM · Report this
Fnarf 10
@8, that's what you would think, but research proves you wrong.

It is NARROW sidewalks, with lots of furniture and obstructions, that foster conversation and interaction. Read the work of William Whyte, for instance: he actually studied sidewalk interaction for many years, filming and analyzing them. He didn't just make up stuff that sounded reasonable. The places where people stop and talk is ALWAYS at the narrowest choke points. Wide, wide sidewalks, plazas, big empty areas -- these are the places people shy away from, don't like going, feel uncomfortable in, hurry across, can't wait to get away from.

He mentored Jane Jacobs, by the way. Everyone likes to namecheck her but for some reason it's almost always in the service of ideas that are diametrically opposed to hers. Segregating traffic and pedestrians completely is anti-urban.

You should read "City: Rediscovering the Center" and "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces". I wish someone in the City of Seattle would.
Posted by Fnarf on November 6, 2012 at 10:13 AM · Report this
Fnarf 11
@4, before cars streets were a nice thick gumbo of mud and horseshit. During the summer they were dust; cities used to send water sprayers up and down sprinkling them to keep the dust down. That's the dust of dried horseshit, by the way. The original purpose of sidewalks was not to protect people against cars, because there were no cars; it was to keep people out of the mud and horseshit (and more than a few dead horses, too). Any idea that people used to hang out in the middle of the busy street in the days of mud and horseshit and flying carriages is ahistorical.
Posted by Fnarf on November 6, 2012 at 10:17 AM · Report this
treacle 12
This is one reason why the sidewalkless suburbs are killing children's souls.


@1, but a sidewalk has less horseshit than a street... and I don't mean historically, as in @11, but literally today.. .with all those fancy carriages and police horses in downtown Seattle, there's horsepoop a-plenty in the eveningtime.

Anyway, sidewalks themselves have fewer dog rockets than do the grass strips between sidewalk and street. And at least we don't have packs of feral dogs running around & pooping everywhere with abandon like most central and southern American nations seem to. Well, them and Detroit. So count your blessings, or go traveling and get some more perspective.

@5, Wow, grumpy much? I personally love to see people kissing on the sidewalk and doin' it in the road. But maybe I'm the weird one.
Posted by treacle on November 6, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 13

It's not just Central and South America. The French, for example, disdain picking up their dogs' shit. So, watch out!
Posted by keshmeshi on November 6, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Fnarf 14
@13, yes, but the French have an army of adorable little green trucks driving around vacuuming the dogshit up, at least in Paris. And they use carpets and hoses to dam the sidewalks every morning and wash them off. Paris sidewalks are spotlessly clean compared to ours.
Posted by Fnarf on November 6, 2012 at 1:25 PM · Report this

Add a comment

Commenting on this item is available only to registered commenters.

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy