Really Narrow Streets
Some readers will know Nathan Lewis and, sure, he can be a bit of a blowhard. But that shouldn’t distract from his good ideas.
Go ahead, go to all the urban places you love the best, whether in Tokyo, in the Italian hill towns, in SoHo in New York or the Upper West side, Greenwich Village, downtown San Francisco, Waikiki (to some degree), Vancouver, Paris, the local indoor shopping mall or wherever, and the common denominator between them all is really narrow streets. Try it, you’ll see what I mean.
I honestly believe that if you have really narrow streets, the rest will take care of itself. Narrow streets = things are close together = easy to walk = hard to park = hard to drive = no wasted space = a city full of “stuff” rather than “non-stuff” like parking lots, superwide roadways and throwaway greenery = architecture that is to be appreciated by a close-up pedestrian rather than from a helicopter or an interstate highway = lots of fun.
Yes, there are cities with wonderful “Grand Boulevards,” and realistically you are going to need a way for trucks to get around to supply the stores and whatnot, but what you want are a handful of “Grand Boulevards” combined with swathes of neighborhoods with really narrow streets, which is where the action is. Sort of an artery-capillary effect. Like central Paris. Look for yourself.
With any luck, Metro Vancouver will soon be able to reconfigure its streets along these lines: arterials turned to grand boulevards, and local streets turned to thin streets. I just hope corner stores are made legal again with them: pedestrians need something to see.