Jane Jacobs, Patron Saint of Urbanism, on streets and city vitality.
Jane Jacobs offered that proverb in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, first published in 1961. It is hard to appreciate just how radical the concept was back then—that vibrant streets were the secret to vibrant cities and urban quality of life. As Thomas Paine said, sometimes “Common sense isn’t.”
Today, “complete streets” are taking over transportation policy, and not a moment too soon. We are finally learning to balance all the competing uses of urban streets. After all, streets are useful to get where you are going, but they also create the channels for the variety and diversity of life in a city, by offering a place to stroll, to window shop, to walk the dog, to meet a neighbor, to walk to school, to buy flowers, to ride home, to go out on the town, to enjoy the sun, to manage stormwater, to access utilities, to wait for a streetcar, to learn to ride a bicycle, to experience a city.