Planner Speak: What on earth is a streetscape?

You have probably brought back photos of stunning landscapes from a vacation, but what about a streetscape? If someone asked you to take a picture of a streetscape, where on earth would you point your camera?

Streetscape (n.) is the appearance of the street, including the entire area between the buildings on either side of a street. Elements of the streetscape include:

  • the front sides of the buildings;
  • landscaping, such as trees, grass, flowers, and bushes;
  • stormwater management features;
  • sidewalks;
  • signs;
  • street furniture, such as benches, bike racks, trash cans, and water fountains;
  • street lights;
  • features of the road including crosswalks, bike lanes, cycle tracks, parking spaces, travel lanes for cars, dedicated lanes for buses, and medians; and
  • street paving, such as asphalt, concrete, brick, or stone.

17th Street     Flick-user-la-citta-vita-CC-BY-SA-2

Paul-Krueger-CC-BY-2.0-v2     Baker-Co-Tourism-CC-BY-ND-2.0

The streetscape can make a big difference as to whether or not people enjoy and feel comfortable traveling down a street, regardless of if they are walking, biking, driving, or riding transit. Trees and awnings can provide shade or shelter from the rain for people who are walking.  A wide sidewalk, without obstacles in your path, makes it easier to walk side by side and chat with a friend, push a stroller, or get around in a wheelchair. A row of landscaping between cars and a bike lane, also known as a protected bike lane, can make it more comfortable to bicycle on a street with lots of traffic. Walking next to buildings with lots of windows with interesting things to look at is more enjoyable than walking next to a solid, blank wall or a large parking lot that separates the buildings from the sidewalk. Lighting that is directed towards the sidewalk can make it feel safer to walk at night.

The streetscape can also make a big difference as to whether or not a street is a comfortable and attractive place to stop and stay for awhile. Outdoor seating in front of a restaurant allows people to enjoy a meal and watch people passing by. Covered bus shelters can protect you from the elements while you wait for the bus. Bike racks in front of stores give you a place to lock up your bike so you can feel confident that it will be there when you return from running your errands.

If you’d like to try your hand at designing a streetscape, check out Streetmix. We’d love to see what you come up with! Share your designs with us on twitter by tagging @RPAchat or on facebook by tagging @chcrpa.

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