What's a 'sticky' street and why do you want one?

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Amatessi

Perhaps a 'sticky street' doesn't bring the best imagery to mind. You might think a thoroughfare with too many gum wads, or a stretch of asphalt on a midwestern summer's day, or even a sidewalk with a syrup spill.

A sticky street is none of those. A term coined by Netizen's Brent Toderian, former director of City Planning in Vancouver B.C., a sticky street is simply one where human beings like to hang out. To walk on, bike on, sit at cafés and sip coffee on, do multiple errands and have multiple interactions on.

Here's Toderian's definition:

Streets aren't just for moving people – streets [are] for people to enjoy and linger, not just move through. Great places are both initially attractive, and 'sticky' once you get there. A place is sticky if people love it, and don't want to leave.

Some examples of sticky streets, according to Toderian, are located in Vancouver, B.C. where enlightened traffic planners have learned to design not just for the things that can be counted - how many pedestrians, bicyclists, cars, what kind of flow rates - but also for the less countable stuff - cool shops, outdoor seating, bike corrals, ped walkways.

In some ways, the concept of sticky streets is just an extension of the idea of livable streets or complete streets with the added idea that you have to have not just the infrastructure and the public transport, but also the shops, cafés, and the people. Not every street needs to be sticky, Toderian says, but planners should pay attention to factors that can encourage parts of towns and cities to retain their stickiness.

Why do we want sticky streets? It's not just that they are friendlier and safer for residents. They are also part of what attracts people to cities in the first place and keeps them vibrant and economically sustainable.

What's your favorite sticky street? One of mine is SW Ankeny Street and 3rd Streets in Portland (home street of VooDoo Donuts).

What's a 'sticky' street and why do you want one?
We matured our cities around the needs to cars. Now it's time to mature our streets around human, not machine, needs. We are all pedestrians.

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