Vibrant Streets: A Primer

Vibrant Streets 22013 is the ‘Year of Community’, and as we were thinking about how to connect people with their neighbourhoods we returned repeatedly to the importance of an active street life.  As tourists we appreciate vibrant, pedestrian-happy zones – why not in the communities we live in?

So, the first ‘big picture’ question of the year is to ask: how do we encourage people to get out of their cars, away from their TVs, and out in the world and interacting with their neighbours and local merchants?  Is it just the weather that entices people out into the community, or is there more to it than that?  Is it a feature of a street’s design?  The quality of the sidewalks?  The types of destination shops that make people want to venture out in the first place?  All of the above?  We all know that the greatest people draw is other people – so how do we get to a critical mass of pedestrian activity that will feed the vibrancy that we’re looking for?

Everybody loves a New Year’s list, so here’s the North Van Urban Forum’s first for 2013, as we examine what makes for a vibrant street life.

We’re asking for feedback here, so please add your comments.  We want to grow the list, and give ourselves a concrete starting point for future discussions.  What do you think, what makes for vibrant, active streets?

Post, tweet, Facebook your comments and additions…..  this is, after all, a forum!  Email us at with any pictures you think illustrate your point, and we’ll post them here.

‘The List’ so far….. in sketch form:

What makes for vibrant streets?

– Diversity of retail?  Diversity of uses?

– Diversity of operational hours (ie. stores that open day and night?)  Different places to visit depending on the time you feel like venturing out.

– Privileging of people over automobiles.

– Attractive streetscaping and street architecture.

– Consideration of all seasons (please can we stop pretending that we live in a Summer paradise and build our neighbourhoods accordingly!)

– Attractive, functional lighting.

– Focus on building a pedestrian infrastructure: sidewalks, trees, paths appropriately wide, rapid changing lights, cross walks, paved crosswalks, rain cover

– Communal spaces

– Vibrant storefronts (actively encroaching upon the communal spaces)

– Street width (easily traversible)

– Music (buskers? festivals? concerts in the park?)

– Culture of distinction – let’s develop a community identity that is unique, identifiable.