Linda Baker in Seed Magazine:
Portland’s so-called “festival street,” which opened two months ago, is one of a small but growing number of projects in the United States that seek to reclaim streets used by cars as public places for people, too. The strategy is to blur the boundary between pedestrians and automobiles by removing sidewalks and traffic devices, and to create a seamless multi-purpose urban space.
Combining traffic engineering, urban planning and behavioral psychology, the projects are inspired by a provocative new European street design trend known as “psychological traffic calming,” or “shared space.” Upending conventional wisdom, advocates of this approach argue that removing road signs, sidewalks, and traffic lights actually slows cars and is safer for pedestrians. Without any clear right-of-way, so the logic goes, motorists are forced to slow down to safer speeds, make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers, and decide among themselves when it is safe to proceed.