Street Design: Creating a Livable Environment for a successful user experience
Streets are vibrant hubs for commercial and social activities. They are also catalysts for urban transformation. Today, urban designers and architects are developing new approaches to street design to meet people’s needs. They are working towards transforming streets into urban places, keeping in mind transportation and vehicular access. What makes a great street is its ability to adapt to the changing world. It should be able to positively affect all aspects of our lives as human beings. Most importantly, they should be able to affect the quality of the environment, a factor that is driving urban designers to design streets in a way that ensures a better quality of life and a safer environment.
Here are 5 major street design features for a memorable and great urban street and user experience:
1- Connectivity and walkability:
Almost all streets have lanes for cars and buses. However, streets also need to have enough space for pedestrians and other users to meet, socialize, shop, and move around. In fact, streets should not only be connections between two points in a neighborhood or a city, they should also be spaces with room for activities. To achieve this, urban designers often aim at reducing travel lanes and creating larger sidewalk spaces, considering that wider sidewalks can improve the pedestrian’s experience and enhance walkability and connectivity. In addition, wider sidewalks also provide more outside spaces for commercial businesses, such as cafes and restaurants, as well as for more streetscaping. This makes the street more useful and attractive, allowing users to better enjoy their surroundings.
2- Trees and shade:
Street trees are important features that have environmental, social, and ecological benefits. In fact, street trees add value to our communities and provide cooling effects in the summer due to shading. They also decrease pollution, and enhance the urban environment, helping cities move towards sustainability. Trees also create walk appeal because they enhance the look of the street, add color and texture to the neighborhood, and provide an escape from the built-environment. Today, many urban designers are choosing to plant street trees near the edge of the sidewalks, creating a visual green wall between the sidewalks and the driving lanes, which would allow pedestrians to walk safely around the neighborhood and help slow traffic.
3- Street furniture:
Similar to home furniture, street furniture should provide an invitation to stay or spend more time in the space. And if properly integrated, it can help create a sense of place around it. For example, choosing the correct type of materials is important, as material choice can greatly affect comfort. Benches and seats are a very important feature in street design, as they provide a space for people to rest, relax, and socialize. However, it is important to take into consideration, for instance, that a bench made of metal can become very hot in hot weather or very cold in colder weather, which would affect the comfort of the street users. This is why creating a mixture of seating, whether fixed or flexible, can be an ideal and better choice. Other important street furniture includes bike racks, planters, signs, bus stops or shelters, etc. It is important here to take into consideration the function, appearance, and sustainability of the furniture, making sure that there is compatibility or a linkage between the designs.
the lighting and type of lighting used largely affect the way a street is used . It is true that lighting increases safety in the areas that are frequently used by pedestrians, such as bus stops, signs, bridges, etc. However, lighting has many more functions that affect the street, its value, and the way pedestrians see it. For example, lighting can be used to create a sense of drama in a space. To achieve this, designers often choose to highlight many landscaping features in the street, such as trees, bushes, and planters, which can bring a positive attention to these areas. Placing lighting fixtures near the landmarks and buildings around the street can also call attention to these places, showing their uniqueness and highlighting the neighborhood’s cultural features. It is important to note, however, that excessive lighting should be avoided, as it can badly affect the pedestrians and drivers’ experience.
Sustainability is the most important aspect in urban design today. It has led urban designers around the world to adopt sustainable materials when creating buildings and open spaces. In fact, while street trees and landscaping can help improve the local climate, sustainable materials and unconventional technologies would further improve the urban environment and reduce our carbon footprint. Urban designers have been playing a major role in promoting sustainability in streets and neighborhoods by encouraging recycling and using green and renewable energy and water management systems. For example, most designers are today using LED lights, pervious cement, recycled plastic, and solar power. Some even choose to add water features, such as fountains, around the streets to add a cooling effect during heat waves.
Do streets impact cultural heritage?
Today, urban designers are aiming to address many aspects of street designs, including the livability of neighborhoods and the importance of meeting the needs of different street users, whether pedestrians, cyclists, or car and bus users among many others. Streets are considered the most important part of our urban environment. Well planned streets can be an enticing environment for the citizens, ensuring access, safety, and comfort, while encouraging movement. It is extremely vital, however, to develop, preserve, and express the unique character of the streets when designing them, as streets with a special identity can encourage people to recognize and celebrate the historic and cultural heritage of the community.