Everyday Sidewalks

James Ellingboe

Sidewalk as Platform

Location: Seattle downtown retail core: map.

Are sidewalks just for moving people?

The following observations demonstrate that sidewalks are platforms for a multitude of forums. In this particular case study, entrepreneurial, political, and entertainment forums from Seattle’s Pike Street Public Market up Pine Street through the downtown retail core. The observed activities seemed to follow a pattern of being located at street intersection corners or at mid-block. These areas of activity also happened to coincide with the sunniest parts of the street, an important note for a cold January day.

The intended timing of the observations was to be during the lunch hour, but even an hour or so after the lunch crowds had vacated the sidewalks, there was plenty of pedestrian activity to warrant the presence of people using the sidewalk as a performance, sales, religious, or political platform. All of these activities lend to a vibrancy of social life within the urban form.

Good urban design should afford opportunities for people to use the public realm, as participants or observers, for a variety of discourse. Good sidewalk design should allow people the choice to ebb away from these observed activities or flow through them.

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