Authentic Urban Public Seating

Seaside Urban Public Seating

Seaside Urban Public Seating

Until recently, public seating in most large cities tended to be battle tested heavy-duty benches that were selected to withstand the test of time. You no doubt have seen those benches in almost every town that you’ve ever visited. You can’t miss them. They’re fairly generic looking and they’re at bus stops, positioned in streetscape right of ways, along multi-purpose parks trails; in town squares and many other places that require benches or public seating. Yes, you’ve seen them. They’re typically painted green or black and are usually located in combination with matching trash receptacles or recycling stations, and sometimes with bike racks and bollards. They’re practical and functional but are not very creative and sometimes very uncomfortable.

Fast forward to 2014 where the conversation around public spaces now involve authenticity, creating destinations, establishing distinctive community brands, celebrating art and activating public spaces. The old standard in evolving into authentic urban public seating that celebrates distinctiveness, new public sensibilities and the many ways that we choose to engage in public spaces. The old standard involved (1) a straight bench made of metal or wood, (2) with or without a back, and (3) embedded or attached in a permanent location.

The evolving public seating standards now include a wide array of organic or unusual shapes and sizes designed for many other uses besides resting or daytime sitting or waiting. There are small seating units designed as private public seating rather than welcome one – welcome all group seating. Movie night in the park or in the neighborhood takes on a different feel with a multi-level theatre bench. The generic bench takes on a different character as the retro seaside bench.

Concrete benches usually associate with bulk and mass has become scaled down versions of it’s former self dazzling us with vertical and horizontal planes, curves, turns and modularity so that the seating doesn’t overwhelm a particular space. Since many public spaces are popular during the evening hours, we also starting to see lighting incorporated into the various seating elements.

Similar to artists stretching the boundaries of new materials, the evolving public seating standards so far has embraced many different types of material – steel, various hardwoods, sustainable wood; upcycled wood, cast stone, gfrc, polymers, stainless steel and hdpe.

Best of all, the new evolving public seating standards appear to be custom designed products but are really standard off-the-shelf designs created by forward looking manufacturers. Here’s a snapshot of authentic urban public seating.

Posted in Artistic Bicycle Racks, Bicycle Parking, Bicycle Racks, Bike Rack Art, Decorative Bicycle Racks, Litter Receptacles, Parks, Plaza Seating, Public Amenities, Public Places, Public Realm, Public Seating, Public Spaces, Rubbish Bins, Street Furniture, Streetscapes, Sustainable Design, Trash Receptacles, Uncategorized, Urban | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Parklets Have Gone Mainstream!

Indoor Parklet at 2014 Smart Growth Conference

Indoor Parklet at 2014 Smart Growth Conference

The idea of turning parking spaces into small parks or parklets has gone mainstream. Orginating in San Francisco in 2005, parklets are urban parks or plaza created by extending sidewalks or pedestrian activity zones into space usually reserved for automobile parking.

To create the additional space, the sidewalk elevation is extended into the street using pedestal supports and structural tiles. Once constructed, the new space is populated with an assortment of pedestrian amenities. Parklets are quickly becoming an important part of the urban and not so urban fabric.

The benefits of parklets are numerous – they provide public space in areas lacking such space, create pedestrian street activity, support neighborhood retail and impact air quality. Parklets create civic conversation and engagement and they have the potential to engergize neighborhoods. Typical parklet locations include business, entertainment, retail and restaurant districts; multi-family residential and office/commercial districts.

Parklets originally gained traction as a way to create temporary parks in densely populated areas, retail business owner, economic development officials, active transportation planners and smart growth advocates have embraced parklets as a way to create more walkable and pedestrian friendly communities.

Primarily found in urban areas, parklets have the potential to impact both urban and rural communities. They can provide a catalyst to energize a struggling neighborhood, temporarily demonstrate the impact of a low cost high impact idea or solicit input on a proposed program prior to it’s actual implementation. Parklets have been promoted by advocates of CNU (Congress for New Urbanism), Smart Growth, Tactical Urbanism or DIY to turn the planning process upside down.

Many cities – most notably Los Angeles through it’s People St. program – has created a formal process for those neighborhoods and business districts interested in installing parkets. They’ve created citywide regulations to support parklets and developed support documents to encourage parklets.

Within the support documents, there are manuals for three different categories of parklets – Plaza Parklets, Street Parklets and Bike Corrals. The manuals include recommended locations and eleven different parklet models. The kit of parts include roadbed graphics, recommended types of furniture for each of the parklets and wayfinding signage.

The parklet typicals and parklet component list are rather extensive. However, none of the parklet typical emphasized components to accommodate kids or families – a major oversight. Trash receptacles also weren’t included in the kits of parts despite an emphasis of parklet maintenance and cleanliness. Also noticeably missing were umbrellas or shade devices. Consideration might also be given to creating parklets for pets as a way to channel some pet activities.

Parklet cost estimates according to People St. ranges between – $35,000.00 to $60,000.00 depending on the typical selection. That range is probably consistent with custom produced product, but readily available off the shelf components are more cost effective and will reduce parklet cost by 30% to 50%. The People St. program application requires that a parklet be installed within 30 days of receiving approval. That requirement probably also adds to the cost of the parklets especially if custom components are used. Many off the shelf parklet components are usually available within that time frame.

Take a look at the various parklet programs across North America.
– Here’s a selected list of parklet websites –
Boston – Curbed Parklets
Oakland – Parklet Program
San Francisco – Pavement to Parks
Seattle – Pilot Parklet Program
Tucson – Tucson’s First Parklet
Vancouver – Parklet Pilot Program

Posted in Bicycle Parking, Bicycle Racks, Bike Rack Art, Chair, Cities, Decorative Bicycle Racks, Parklet, Parklets, pedestrian amenities, Public Amenities, Public Places, Public Realm, Public Seating, Public Spaces, Uncategorized, Urban | Comments Off

Public Space Updates

Tables and Chairs at Sidewalk Cafe

Tables and Chairs at Sidewalk Cafe

Webinars
April 2nd
The Public Health Impact of Community Speed Reduction

Designing Better Places
Eight Part Series on Designing Public Spaces
Sneckdown: Using Snow to Design Safer Streets
There’s a Science to Foot Traffic, And it Can Help Us Design Better Cities

Pedestrians and Walking
Cartoon – If Pedestrians Had Clout
It’s Not Too Far – Walk Your City
Safe Routes to Everywhere
The Impact of Neighborhood Walkability on Walking Behavior

Pedestrian Safety
Jaywalking: How the Car Industry Outlawed Crossing the Road
NY Vision Zero Report and Street Safety Agenda
NY Vision Zero Action Plan

Street Design
Finland: Drivers Will No Longer Rule the Road in Cities of the Future
How to Make Crosswalks Artistically Delightful
NY Times – The Mean Street of New York
San Francisco Ponders Rainbow Colored Crosswalks
What Maps of Philly Pedestrian Deaths Tells Us about Street Design
World Class Streets Have More Pedestrians
World Class Streets

Traffic Calming
The Atlantic Cities – A DIY Approach to Slowing A City’s Cars

Posted in Public Amenities, Public Places, Public Realm, Public Spaces, Streetscapes, Uncategorized, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

2014 Rocky Mountain City Summit

Artistic City Bench

Artistic City Bench

I had the opportunity last week to attend the 2014 Rocky Mountain City Summit in Denver sponsored by the Downtown Denver Partnership and Cigna Health– the presenting sponsor.

The City Summit was organized with three primary goals in mind –
1. Inspire the private sector to provide leadership in city building through innovative real estate development, public policy, city planning and public private partnerships.
2. Build cross functional relationship within and though out the Rocky Mountain West cities.
3. Share innovative ideas from local and global sources.

The Summit included both local and global fire power from presentations by Dr. Benjamin Barber – political theorist and author of “If Mayors Ruled the World“, Jennifer Bradley, Fellow, The Brooking Institute and co-author of the Metropolitan Revolution, Dr. Richard Florida – the best selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Cities and the Creative Class, The Flight of the Creative Class and Who’s your City; Charles Landry, author of The Creative City and The Art of City Making and Kimbal Musk – Founder of the Kitchen and the Kitchen Community who began the “Learning Gardens” program.

As you can tell from this line-up, there was quite a bit of conversation about cities and creativity and what can and should be done to make them unique and more enjoyable. There were also local and regional speaker breakout sessions with topics that included Smart Urban Mobility, The New Way of Engaging the Community, Collaborative Consumption and Tactical Urbanism.

As a person attempting to create a new standard for how we perceive, design and interact with public spaces, the Rocky Mountain City Summit was a breath of fresh air. The Summit provided a much needed snapshot into cities and how they can be transformed into unique, enjoyable and fun places for their citizens.

Posted in Better Block, Cities, City, Community Garden, Healthy Communities, Public Places, Public Spaces, Sustainable Design, Uncategorized, Urban | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

Spring Streetscape Maintenance Checklist

Spring Cleaning Idea!

Spring Cleaning Idea!

Furniture and Site Amenities
1. Check flower pots for damage.
2. Replace soil or add soil amendments to existing flower pots.
3. Purchase new flower pots in later winter/early spring for best delivery.
4. Consider self watering flower pot inserts to prevent over and underwatering.
5. Consider saucers for flower pots where overwatering creates a safety issue.
6. Re-stain or re-seal wood benches, chairs, planters and tables.
7. Organize errant newpaper boxes with modular newspaper vending boxes.
8. Check street furniture and other elements for graffiti.
9. Check benches, trash can and sidewalks for gum. Remove where necessary.
10. Repair or replace damaged street furniture.
11. Inventory streetscape fixtures in need of repair.
12. Inspect bike racks, benches, trash cans and planters for damage.
13. Clean under trash receptacle to prevent unsanitary conditions.
14. Clean and/or repair street furniture if required.

Flower Beds, Lawns and Trees
15. Weed and mulch flower beds, trees and shrubs where needed.
16. Remove dead or damaged tree and shrub branches.
17. Trim perennials.
18. Aerate landscaped areas.
19. Fertilize trees, shrubs and flowers as needed.
20. Trim tree’s near power lines.
21. Inspect and replace tree grates if damaged or destroyed.
22. Install new pet waste stations if needed.
23. Remove debris from drain covers.

Sprinklers
24. Test and inspect irrigation system for damage, proper operation and coverage.
25. Check sprinkler heads to prevent water damage to walks, deck, patios or buildings.

Sidewalks
26. Inspect sidewalks for tree root damage and freeze-thaw heaving.
27. Repair cracked, broken or missing sidewalks or pavers.
28. Reseal sidewalk joints.
29. Clear sidewalks of overgrown bushes and other obstacles.
30. Clean and power wash sidewalks where needed.

Site Lighting
31. Check landscape lighting for damage.
32. Repair or replace burned out light bulbs or lamps.
33. Repair or replace damaged or missing light poles.
34. Switch light bulbs or lamps to LED’s where possible.

Posted in Public Amenities, Public Spaces, Spring Maintenance Check List, Street Furniture, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Comments Off

Until Spring Comes Along

 

Aquarian Planters and Sunloungers

Aquarian Planters and Sunloungers

 

The weather this winter in the U.S. has been brutal especially east of the Rocky Mountains and along the eastern seaboard. There has been heavy snowfall, record cold temperatures and crazy weather in unexpected places – like Atlanta where freezing rain and a little snow shut the city down for days.

Yes, it still winter for another month or so, but I think it’s safe to say that we’re all looking forward to spring.  Now that the Sochi Olympic’s is over, my mind has been wandering about. Let’s see, there’s turning the soil in garden and adding amendments.  There’s planning for new vegetables in the garden, deciding which vegetables from last season should get a second chance and how to boost the output of everything.  Then of course, there’s the fixing the drainage problems that this winter’s weather exposed. And of course, I need to start walking again.

But basically like most of you, I’m looking forward to spending more time outside in the warm sun taking in the rays.  I can’t wait to see the spring foliage beginning to bloom.  Until then, I’ll be listen to and watching the Happy Song.

 

Posted in Garden Furniture, Pool Furniture, Public Amenities, Public Spaces, Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off

Parklets 2.0

Placematters, WalkDenver, Streetscapes Inc. and the Denver Botanic Gardens has collaborated on an indoor parklet during the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. The indoor parklet includes FSC certified thermally modified structural hardwood tiles harvested in the U.S. The tiles are splinter, twist and wrap resistant. Used with the Versijack and SpiraPave paver support system, the structural tiles create can public gathering spaces almost anywhere.

versijack-pedestal-orenco-1

The indoor parklet also contains a living wall grid system flowerbox, a pebble stool for seating variety, various style planters and an oversized side post mounted umbrella. Located in a quiet light filled zone, distinctive benches, folding bistro tables and chairs and a portable patio table with multi-colored chairs fill the space. Participants eager for a little exercise will find a ping pong table hidden in the parklet waiting for players.

green-wall-planter-trellis-4872-6X6
The parklet is located on the third floor of the Hyatt Regency Denver Hotel NorthEast corner and will be on display until 2:30 pm Saturday. If you’re attending the conference or located in Denver, the parklet is in a public space. Come by and take a look!

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Last Mile Symposium

Denver RTD Fastracks Streetscapes, Inc

I recently had the opportunity to attend the “Last Mile Symposium” organized by the Denver Regional Council of Governments – a regional transportation policy organization. The symposium title surprised me for a regional transportation planning organization but it illustrates the mindset of those in transportation – the only transportation that really matter are bicycles, cars, buses, light rail and trains. I guess it never occurred to anyone that both first and last mile issues begin and end with walking or being a pedestrian.

The symposium began with an overview of the reasons for a last mile symposium. The Denver Fastracks program is a multi-billion dollar project currently involving 108 miles of light rail track and approximately 57 stations. 5 new lines or extension of existing lines are under construction and will come on line within the next 2-3 years. Denver citizens as a whole are very excited about the light rail system and all of the opportunities that it brings to the city. But many people living in neighborhoods along the light rail system are finding access to the rail system difficult. In the suburban areas, meandering streets, cul-du-sacs, dead end street and the lack of pedestrian paths are creating pedestrian barriers to the rail stations. In some urban neighborhoods, the lack of sidewalks, poorly maintained sidewalks or very narrow sidewalks create additional pedestrian obstacles. Then there’s the issue of wide high speed arterial streets that provide very little protection for pedestrians brave enough to consider an attempt at crossing.

Sadly enough, there was never a conversation during the symposium about pedestrians or walking and the infrastructure that makes walking a preferred choice over driving to a rail station or park and ride.

It was a great idea to get the conversation started in the Denver community about “last mile” connections … but the conversation should be about both first and last mile connections and pedestrian access to the rail stations. If public transportation advocates and planners aren’t talking about pedestrian issues, I guess it illustrates the lack of importance given to pedestrians and walking issues.

Posted in Bus and Transit, Economic Development, Fitness, Healthy Communities, Neighborhood, passenger amenities, pedestrian amenities, Public Amenities, Streetscapes, Urban, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off

2013 MainStreet in Review

There’s less than five weeks left in 2013, so now is a good time to dust off this years’ public space plan for review. While you’re at it, pull out the ideas and suggestions that have been sent your way during the year and any research that you’ve conducted on future public space trends.

Did you notice an increase or decrease in pedestrian traffic along mainstreet or in the business improvement district? How did your pedestrian traffic count this year relate to previous years? Was the traffic up or down? Can you attribute the increase or decrease to any particular action or activity?

Did you initiate any new public space initiatives this year? Did they perform as expected? Were you surprised by the results or underwhelmed? If the initiative underperformed, what changes will you implement next spring to produce better results. Has the demographics in your local community changed recently and if so, what ideas have you come across that might improve the alignment with your market?

How does the appearance of your property compare with other properties in the area? If you rate it as less comparable, what projects may you initiate to improve or maintain a visual edge? Are there low cost, high impact changes that could be made to dramatically improve the appearance? Have you conducted a site audit to determine the condition of the existing site furniture? Is there a need to replace or introduce new public elements that might address particular issues? For example, could wayfinding signage or district markers boost store sales within the district perimeters.

Are there new initiatives that you’d like to introduce in 2014? Will you implement a district wide recycling program? Will your district become part of a local water reduction campaign? Is there a need to create resting areas for smokers and non-smokers? Is there adequate bike parking to capture cyclist? How pet and child friendly is your retail district? Are there experiential elements that could be added to your public space to generate new excitement?

As the end of the year approaches, this is a good time to tackle unfinished 2013 plans and begin thinking about new public space ideas for 2014. For ideas that can be implemented now to impact the spring of 2014, see what to do this winter for next spring.

Posted in pedestrian amenities, Public Amenities, Public Places, Streetscapes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Thoughts on Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure

bike-attached-to-tree

It’s time for community planners, municipal officials and traffic engineers to recalibrate their thinking regarding walking and biking. Walking and biking have always been mainstream forms of transportation. Walking has been and always will be the first mode of transportation. Public transportation in the form of buses and trains followed walking and the invention of the bicycle followed the buses and trains

As urban sprawl accelerated, cities neglected public transportation and along with it the pedestrian infrastructure. Cities allowed neighborhood to be built with wandering streets that lead to nowhere and shifted the burden of sidewalk construction and repair to local residents. Where sidewalks were constructed, narrow sidewalks were the norm. The traffic engineers chose to provide wide streets for cars and break-away sign post to minimize vehicle damage, but offered scant protection if any for pedestrians and cyclist. Any bike paths installed during that time usually were installed for recreational purposes. That pattern is pretty obvious today as most bike paths were built in non-urban areas along creek and riverbed or along abandoned railroad track. If you live in a suburban area, you might commute to work downtown on one of these recreational trails.

Today with walking, biking and public transportation returning as the preferred modes of transportation, there’s a need to transform, maintain and increase the bike and pedestrian infrastructure. We celebrate the return of trolley cars and light rail, but we make it extremely difficult for the pedestrians and cyclist living in the neighborhood to access them. We encourage our kids to walk to school but force their parents to walk in the street because the sidewalks are so narrow. Our streets have changes with the popularity of our automobiles, now it time for the pedestrian and bike infrastructure to change with the popularity of bike and walking.

Posted in Bicycle Parking, Bicycle Racks, Bike Rack Art, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off