Brave New City | Taking a Walk

Simple technologies integrated into city streets can make a world of difference.

An inclusive urban street is an expressway for people to get to their destinations; a promenade for travelers to wander; it’s a playground for children to explore; a social space for friends to gather; it is a public place for the elderly and people with disabilities to navigate. Urban streetscapes can enhance the values, lifestyles, and natural environment of their communities, while accommodating a broad spectrum of people, regardless of their age, physical ability, or situation in life.

Sidewalks designed with islands and inlets are geared toward wider use, with green spaces, food vendors, or information kiosks. Crossings can be made easier with smart LED lights, multisensory signals, and sensor systems that detect slow pedestrians and adjust signal times accordingly.

Urban streets should be equally easy to walk and roll on. The modular paving system, in a variety of material options, can accommodate different needs. Pavement can be designed to prevent trip hazards or stuck wheels. Movable grab bars placed along the sidewalks and heat-traced pavers can ensure safety and accessibility in extreme weather.

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Solar-powered street lamps can also serve as wireless hotspots with LEDs embedded into their posts to highlight evacuation routes or display important news. Permeable pavers and bioswales can reduce storm water runoff. Urban streets are the first public realm of a community and should be designed with everyone in mind. Today’s technology can make them more accessible for everyone.

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