Parklets and Streateries

Rethinking the Car-Centric Mindset

The Parklet on University Avenue near Bulldog News, Seattle, WA.

The Parklet on University Avenue near Bulldog News, Seattle, WA.

It's great to see the SDOT Parklets and Streateries springing up around town. I love city streets, it's the cars I can do without. Rededicating street space to a more pedestrian friendly design plan is paramount to facilitating the vibrancy of a city, and there’s no better way to do this than bringing food to the sidewalk.

A few years back, a snowstorm in Seattle closed many streets and forced people to either stay home or find a different way to get around. In my neighborhood, people were seen snowshoeing, sledding, and skiing to the grocery store. I met more of my neighbors in two days of being snowbound and car-less than I had in years of living there. My mood also benefitted from the absence of roaring automobile engines, being replaced instead by the quiet, calming acoustics of a snow covered landscape.

Two years ago I spent some time in Genoa, Italy. The thing that struck me about this ancient Ligurian seaport and birthplace of Christopher Columbus, with its myriad caruggi leaving this pedestrian directionally challenged (okay lost) more than once, was how vibrant street life becomes when the automobile is removed from the picture.

It was amazing to witness. These narrow streets become an extension of both commercial and residential spaces. The street is transformed into a place to be, not just pass through in isolation on your way to somewhere else. There is a rhythm to the street life from the first bakery vendor walking to work long before sunrise, until the younger generation gathers in the late hours to make merry. 

If you are a business owner or part of a community group considering hosting a Parklet or Streatery, I encourage you to contact the Seattle Department of Transportation and help make Seattle a more vibrant place to live.