©EDSA | Prioritizing People


©EDSA | Insights | Outside Dining

Representing less than one-third of the global population, major cities produce more than 55% of all economic output worldwide. As such, trends in urban design are geared towards features that put people first – prioritizing pedestrian linkages and establishing public spaces that serve as a stage for everyday life.

Dating back to the 1920’s, avenues and boulevards served as meeting places for commerce, conversation and childhood play. But the rise of automobiles led to safety concerns, and soon, curbs, crosswalks and traffic lights were introduced to create barriers between people and place. In the decades that followed, widened streets became dominated by cars, limiting routes and resources for walking, alternative public transportation and community socialization.

©EDSA | Insights | CGI of Pedestrian Walkway

Over half a century later, a surge in urban life and its associated economic developments ushered in a new era of design, returning spaces to rising pedestrian populations – a trend that continues to strengthen city centers. As proof that people thrive in areas with high connectivity, accessibility and circulation, approximately 84% of the U.S. populous currently reside in urban environments, up from 64% in 1950, according to the UN Population Division. And, city migration growth is anticipated to continue. With a projection of 89% urbanization by 2050, planners, architects and designers are collaborating to implement balanced street settings, or complete streets, which support inclusive design for people of all ages and abilities.

©EDSA | Insights | Cross Road
©EDSA | Insights | Bike Ride

The framework for healthy urban communities is contingent upon initiatives like complete streets and road diets that prioritize pedestrians and connect comprehensive networks of walkways, trails, and bike paths with parks, public transportation and community amenities. By incorporating a holistic approach to roadway design, cities are reimagining their streets as destinations. From building face to building face and everything in between, the pairing of complete streets and road diets allows for the redistribution of outdoor spaces, creating a continued equilibrium between people, place and transport.

From pavers and benches to light poles and parking, the prevailing priority is to create safe, functional and beautiful outdoor environments with a cohesive palette of design features. For example, natural buffers, trees, shrubs and planters shield people from traffic, while spacing of crosswalks synchronized with light posts creates a symmetrical repetition from below and above. In addition, traffic calming measures such as curb extensions and landscape bump-outs establish visual guides to inspire a slower vehicular pace to accommodate pedestrians. Other methods include a shift in pavement patterns and color schemes to guide visitors to their arrival point, such as mass transit pullout zones.

©EDSA | Insights | Aerial View of City at Night

With limited space for new infrastructure, city streets are narrowing to offer a plethora of pedestrian uses. In some cases, roundabout traffic circles are repurposed to provide playgrounds, pop-up parks and picnic tables. These people-centric thoroughfares also provide outlets for restaurant seating and bike lanes, leading to an upsurge in streets centered on greenways and sustainability features.

In order to accommodate the growing numbers of city dwellers predicted for the coming years, one thing is true: prioritizing pedestrian circulation, alternative modes of transportation and smart landscape elements is a viable means of creating better, more livable communities that improve social engagement, public health, recreation and local economies.