Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Go ahead. Add a bike lane.
Last week we wrote about the idea of "rightsizing" streets in the context of a new guide from the Project for Public Spaces illustrating exactly what the concept might look like in a variety of settings. Rightsizing is really about editing the built environment, revising streetscapes to meet the changing needs of drivers, bikers and pedestrians.
It turned out that Code for America was toying with the very same questions about how to rightsize streets the right way and, more specifically, how to help communities picture what's possible when you begin to look at all that asphalt as an editable surface. They pointed us to this great tool, newly built and still in progress: StreetMix.net.
It was developed over a few hours at a hackathon two weeks ago by a group of Code for America fellows, Lou Huang, Ezra Spier, Marcin Wichary, Katie Lewis and Ans Bradford. Their site allows you to do your editing online, adding a bike lane to your boulevard or snipping out that 8-foot parking curb.
More often, the public process for talking about changes like this feels abstract or, at best, resembles an arts-and-crafts project. Huang says he first began to think of the idea while attending a public meeting in San Francisco about rightsizing a local street. "One of the groups running the meeting actually cut out individual strips of paper with sections of road and trees and sidewalks and bike lanes," Huang says, "and had everyone sit in groups and form their ideal version of 2nd street."
This digital method is a little less unwieldy (and entails no paper cuts). And so we can imagine it coming in handy for both planners and newcomers to the planning process. StreetMix's developers are hoping to produce a mobile version for use with a tablet on the street, or in a meeting. As it evolves, StreetMix will also include more of the features you may really want in your ideal street: cycle tracks, parklets, edible medians. If you've got more ideas, Code for America wants to hear them: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oh, and if you hate one-way streets, StreetMix can fix that, too.