Lively Streets

Vikas Mehta

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Mehta, V. (1). Lively Streets. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 27(2), 165–187.

Design Of Neighborhood Commercial Streets , Environment Behavior , Perceptions , Streets As Social Space

Increasingly, scholars suggest thinking of the street as a social space, rather than just a channel for movement. Studies that address the relationships between social behavior and environmental quality of the street tend to separate the study of physical features from land uses and hence do not address the interrelationships between behavioral patterns and physical features of the street and its sociability. This article is an empirical examination of behavioral responses of people to the environmental quality of neighborhood commercial streets. Structured and semistructured observations are used to study stationary, lingering, and social activities on three neighborhood commercial streets. Eleven land use and physical characteristics of buildings and the street are identified based on the literature review and extensive observations. These are measured and tested to understand which characteristics support stationary, lingering, and social activities. The findings reveal that people are equally concerned with the social, land use, and physical aspects of the street. Seating provided by businesses, seating provided by the public authorities, businesses that are community places, personalized street fronts, and sidewalk width particularly contribute to stationary and social activities on neighborhood commercial streets.

Main finding
The study defines a Liveliness Index - aspects of the street that help support stationary, lingering, and social activities on the street and make it lively - determined by the following four factors: (a) A combination of characteristics of the street that are affected by businesses and land uses (variety in the businesses, number of independently owned stores, personalization of the street fronts of the businesses by means of decoration, signs, plants, etc., and permeability of storefronts to the street); (b) A combination of various physical aspects of the street (width of the sidewalk, public seating, and other artifacts and street furniture, shade on the sidewalk from trees, awnings, canopies, retractable umbrellas, etc., and articulation of the building façade); (c) Seating provided on the street by businesses in the form of movable chairs; and (d) Businesses that people regarded as community places.

Description of method used in the article
Variety of techniques were used to collect data on the behavior of residents, workers, and visitors on three neighborhood commercial streets. Data were collected at two levels—the street block and segments of the street block approximately fifty to sixty feet in length—within the three study areas. Structured visual surveys and other quantitative techniques provided data that was analyzed using quantitative methods.

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