Living Streets of OpenStreetMap US

The Potlatch 2 icons which introduced me to Residential Street vs. Living Street

Living street as a regional / legal / linguistic concept

According to Wikipedia, a living street is designed “in the interests of pedestrians and cyclists” with slowed car traffic. Despite the article being written by American transportation policy historians, they produce no local examples. The article presents several European street signs; I assume it is a common sight across these countries:

Do Americans have living streets without realizing it?

It’s a shame the living streets article does not discuss pedestrian malls or pedestrian plazas. I’m not sure how chill this term is in suburban consciousness, but it at least has a presence in US and Canadian English. City Beautiful has posted videos about old and new pedestrian malls for years.

Searching for living streets in Chicago, as tagged by users

Using Overpass Turbo, I can find living streets in my city and around the world. This could provide insight into well-planned urban areas which haven’t had their own Insta-moment yet.

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  • Navy Pier — this one makes sense. It is a mall with a pedestrian-plaza type road. Similar to the Emeryville Bay Street Mall, it seems the OSM US community will use living street for ‘roads which can accept vehicles but are generally closed’.
  • Six blocks of W. Argyle Street, known as West Argyle Street Historic District: this might be the truest result. The article labels it ‘Little Saigon’ or ‘New Chinatown’ with recognition dating back to the 1960s. It’s a city street open to cars, but with wider sidewalks.
  • Greenview Passage — this is a one-way road through an apartment complex. It is not open to the public.
  • Various cul-de-sacs, access roads to a few houses, and roads winding through apartment complexes — I think this is a choice by map editors to label their local parking as a ‘living street’ to emphasize it is not used for thru-traffic, even though it may mostly hold cars.

Searching for living streets elsewhere in the US

In Ann Arbor, MI there are three labeled: a greenery-draped alleyway, a dead end with seven houses, and apartment parking.

does this parklet (built in 2018) make East 43rd Street into a living street?

Conclusions

The idea to search for hidden gems of new urbanism through the living street query needs work. I did discover a new parklet and that NYC has changed without me. In Chicago the query returns two areas which would be good to walk around as a tourist. This seems helpful.

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