public space for people
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Amanda Brown-Stevens

Public Space for People vs. Public Space for Cars

As we enter our fourth week of sheltering in place, with stronger restrictions based on our evolving understanding of this virus, the need for places to get outside close to home is more evident than ever.

Our family has enjoyed walks around the neighborhood and appreciate its beauty—from the gardens in front of homes and apartment buildings to the small stores and restaurants that we can frequent in better times. 

public space for people

Yet, as we stroll, we are increasingly anxious about how we create space for others on narrow sidewalks, allowing everyone to stay safe and to get fresh air. We all feel crowded while we walk alongside wide, almost empty streets. We know that the streets won’t stay empty forever and right now our cities are unfortunately built to be dependent on cars for our (normally) essential daily trips for work, school, and errands. 

Yet this moment gives us some clarity about how much of our cities we have turned over to cars, and how a more humane city-scale could prioritize people over vehicles. I have been heartened by the movement to temporarily close some streets to cars around the country and I’d love to see more of that, even in smaller cities as we give ourselves space to get outside and start to reclaim these places. In our own neighborhood, we see kids taking over parking lots as roller rinks and we have people reclaiming their own space, dancing in the streets.

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