Kaid Benfield Archive


A "complete street," circa 1906

Kaid Benfield

Posted March 25, 2010 at 1:32PM

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As a member of the Complete Streets Coalition, NRDC believes that streets should be for everyone: walkers, cyclists, drivers, transit users, merchants, offices, even nature.  Streets comprise the most important public spaces in our communities, and as such they should be designed with ambition and care, to nourish us, not just convey us.  And multiple categories of users should be accommodated harmoniously and safely. 

The late-20th century notion that streets should be designed primarily for automobile traffic, with everyone else in a submissive role, is an historical anomaly.  It hasn't been that way throughout most of civilization.  To illustrate that point, check out this amazing video from a century ago, which purports to show the view from the front of a streetcar as it makes its way down Market Street in San Francisco.  While the scene is utter chaos (and that is not what I'm advocating), and one can't help but wonder if there hasn't been some tricky video editing, it certainly depicts a shared space.  Enjoy: 


We can do (a lot) better than that now, thank goodness, but we could also do a lot worse than to seek to recapture some of the fundamental humanity shown in that clip as we work to rebuild and strengthen our streets and our communities.

Thanks to Amanda Eaken for pointing me to this video.