Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Magic sidewalk gardens

Sidewalk gardens in Portland, Oregon - an alternative to bland grass strips

I hate those strips of grass near sidewalks when they are festooned with the foul fecal offering of a wandering canine (I blame mindless dog owners). Too often those strips are neglected, littered and ignored. They detract from neighborhood aesthetics and make it look like no one cares.

This blog has talked about parking lot design, bike trail safety, and redesigned alleys. Yet somehow those odd strips of grass escape our notice.

Overflowing tall grasses block a few sightlines but still add character
Technically we're talking about sidewalk buffers called planting strips but they have many names; tree lawns, rights-of-way, boulevards (in Canada), and verges (in the UK). Street ecologists call them planting strip gardens or just sidewalk gardens.

Think about it. If residents can take them over and use them for flowers and food, planting strips become one of the simplest fixes to create local pride.

It's the perfect opportunity to activate a boring or dying street. In CPTED terminology planting strips can extend territorial control by residents into the public domain of their street.

I found some interesting samples in Portland, Oregon recently. Check them out.

Short walkways direct pedestrians to cars
Functional gardens provide food and buffers to prevent toddlers from darting onto streets