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Changing decades of embedded practice in designing urban streets can be challenging. A lack of proven local precedents, limited funding, and regulatory restrictions can lead to hesitation in the face of innovative solutions. Lengthy construction periods and frustrating wait times for nearby residents and businesses further add to reluctance toward implementation.
Interim materials or phased solutions provide opportunities to quickly demonstrate change, at a lower cost, and are therefore more easily approved. Before and after comparisons reveal solutions that work and ones that don’t. Interim phasing should be used to inform long-term solutions.
Some cities brand the interim design as a pilot or test phase for a project, and others view the design as equivalent to permanent reconstruction. While a majority of these pilot projects go on to become permanent capital projects, some are altered or redesigned in the process based on their performance. This results in a better final product and saves the expenditure of future improvements or revisions.
Interim Elements and Material
During the life cycle of a street, the original design and roadway geometry may no longer meet the needs of the community. To address the need for roadway retrofits and urban traffic calming, use inexpensive, easily deployable, and non-permanent solutions that work on an area-wide scale.1
Small concrete dividers or parking bumpers can be installed for overnight transformation of streets to reflect the desired configurations, without expensive and permanent infrastructure.
Plastic delineators are easy to install and remove. They can help in directing traffic flows and offer resistance to vehicular speeding without posing a risk. These also augment other vertical devices such as stone bollards and jersey barriers.
Paint and Thermoplastic
Surface materials can be applied quickly and relatively inexpensively. They do not create a physical barrier and may be combined with other elements for that purpose. These generally act as visual devices that force drivers to slow down, carefully read the roadbed for movement, and yield to pedestrians.
Planters can be used to create inexpensive yet aesthetically pleasing installations that define medians, islands, curb extensions, plazas, footpaths, and cycle tracks. Planters also add vegetation and greenery to the street.
Temporary Site Interventions
Temporary interventions can be implemented and tried on site for varying durations, from a few hours, a day, or even a week. They help street users visualize alternate uses of the street space and can be effective tools for public engagement.
Moving the Curb
Many streets have a curb to indicate a separation of space between pedestrians and other modes of transport. Rethinking the curb and moving it to better balance all the users of the street can transform how the street functions, looks, and feels. Interim strategies allow streets to adapt quickly to changing contexts. Use the following strategies to transform streets and intersections to make them safer and more convenient for sustainable mobility choices.
Parklets are public seating platforms that replace several parking spaces. They serve as a gathering place for the community and can revitalize local businesses. See: Pedestrian-Priority Spaces.
Sidewalks can be expanded using interim materials, such as epoxied gravel, paint, planter beds, and bollards, easing pedestrian congestion in advance of a full reconstruction.
Interim markings with bollards or planters can change the geometry of an intersection and help revitalize a neighborhood, while increasing accessibility and making mobility more intuitive.
Temporary traffic calming devices may be installed using pedestrian curb extensions at mid-block crossings or at street corners, or by using landscaping and narrow drainage channels. These may be designed as quick, inexpensive elements using paint and plastic bollards, or with use of permanent elements such as raised islands.
Cycle corrals typically replace one parking space at the request of a local business or property owner and accommodate 12–24 cycles. Corrals can be installed at corners to increase visibility.2
Vendors and Food Trucks
Vendors and food trucks can provide valuable services where they are lacking. Areas close to key destinations such as transit stations may dedicate parking spaces for these uses so that clear walking paths may be safely maintained.
Movable chairs and table reclaim pedestrian space in a parking lot.
Flexible bollards delineate an interim bike lane.
Parklet installed to provide additional pedestrian space.
Planters and paint used to create an interim plaza.
1. New York City Department of Transportation, Street Design Manual (New York, NY: NYC DOT, 2009).
2. Drew,Meisel, Bike Corrals: Local Business Impacts, Benefits, and Attitudes (Portland: Portland State University, 2010), accessed June 7, 2016, http://nacto.org/docs/usdg/bike_corrals_miesel.pdf
Adapted by Global Street Design Guide published by Island Press.
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