The Mixed-Use Sidewalk

Annette M. Kim

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Kim, A. M. (1). The Mixed-Use Sidewalk. Journal of the American Planning Association, 78(3), 225–238.

Map , Property Rights , Public Space , Sidewalk , Urban Design , Vietnam

Problem, research strategy, and findings: Around the globe, streets and sidewalks in cities are being contested as spaces that should be used for more than transportation. This article challenges our understanding of both property rights and public space by applying a property rights framework to situate sidewalk use debates. It analyzes and maps the sidewalk property regimes of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, through a novel integration of surveying and ethnography. The case illuminates the feasibility of a mixed-use sidewalk that can be shared between various kinds of uses and users. A mixed-use sidewalk that is both cooperative and livable is possible if planners incorporate time into planning space in order to expand the sidewalk's flexibility and if local society can renarrate and enforce new legitimacies on the sidewalk. Takeaway for practice: Sidewalk space deserves more attention as an important public space. In our era of historic urbanization, we should reconceive sidewalks as a mixed-use space rather than an exclusively pedestrian zone. Moreover, North American planners would benefit from engaging with public space experiments happening in cities in the developing world. Research support: This research was supported by MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

Main finding
The case study shows the fluidity and flexibility that is possible with sidewalk space given the variables of time, alternative narratives, and local enforcement as seen through 3 epistmologies: food, leisure and commerce. (1) The amount of space used fluctuates over the course of the day based on broader economic structures of meal times, commuter shoppers, after-work recreation, etc. (2) The total amount of sidewalk space taken for various uses range from around 10% to 40% which leaves a significant amount of the sidewalk space for pedestrians. (3) The biggest use of space is for motorbike parking but the sidewalk obstruction narrative has been about clearing vendors and not parking. (4) Cooperation occurred between property owners and vendors (no rent for the space or to give in-kind payments, free water and electricity, and storage for a small fee) and extended to coordination between vendors.

Description of method used in the article
Combines participant observation and interviewing using (1) a physical survey of sidewalk usage in six wards in two districts, recording 3,876 non-pedestrian uses of sidewalk space utilizing ArcGIS and (2) interviews of 250 vendors with questions about their livelihood practices and negotiations of space with property abutters and local police.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Economic Transactions Walking or Rolling
Field Observations Survey
Urban Design
Physical types
Geographic locations