|The City's framing is pretty good!|
As the news was filtered into traditional media, old biases and tropes crept in to shift the tone of coverage.
|We need to work on framing - front page yesterday|
But it is nothing of the kind! It is an expansion and enhancement, allowing more people and a greater range of people to enjoy public space. We should think of it as sidewalk expansion, not street closure.
The frame of "closure" perpetuates the myth that streets are for cars, and people on foot or other users are at best temporary interlopers, impedance to be managed and reduced.
"Closure" here is autoist framing and should be avoided.
|"bustling cafe culture" (May 21st)|
The stance here has always been that the biggest threat to people in public space downtown are the cars.
But some people find in street campers a greater threat. And if we are contemplating reallocating street space from cars to people dining, we remain reluctant to countenance street camping. While we have successfully excluded people from travel lanes as carspace, we are struggling with trying to exclude the "wrong kind of people" from sidewalks.
|Are zooming cars or street people the greatest threat?|
At the same time, even when you are not yourself a paying customer, a thriving cafe culture adds vitality to downtown and is an urban good, a benefit that everyone enjoys.
A good city has plentiful outdoor restaurant space for paying customers; plazas and parks for people with sack lunches, picnics, or those who are not eating; and appropriately moderated car traffic so people on foot don't feel like they are playing frogger. Unless it gets out of control, making temporary quasi-private outdoor dining space out of public sidewalk and road space is not an unjust encroachment on the public sphere and instead is an enrichment of street life.
Still, as we rightly expand sidewalk space for downtown dining and shopping in the Pandemic, we should also not lose sight of the need to create more abundant housing at all price points downtown also. The more people who live downtown, the less we will have to worry about attracting non-residents with free parking and other autoist perks. And abundant housing choices will also moderate indigency and street camping and make it easier to balance fairly the different uses of our public streets and sidewalks.