Appreciating the Spaces That Connect Us

Often overlooked, liminal spaces like front porches and sidewalks can boost social connections.

1 minute read

September 19, 2023, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

African-American parents push stroller down residential neighborhood sidewalk as young child rides scooter in front of them.

Monkey Business / Adobe Stock

Writing in the Congress for the New Urbanism’s Public Square, Robert Steuteville outlines the growing evidence that front porches and sidewalks play a much more important role in civic life than they’re often given credit for, acting as critical components of social infrastructure.

“Porches are a transition zone between the public realm and private realm and they help to ease engagement with neighbors,” while sidewalks provide both critical safety infrastructure and a way for residents to meet and interact with one another. Steuteville cites several recent articles showing that more writers and urbanists are appreciating the benefits of porches and sidewalks.

Meanwhile, around the country, cities are committing to efforts to improve and expand their sidewalk networks. “Denver, which found that some 40 percent of its streets have no sidewalks or substandard ones, has passed an ordinance mandating special property taxes to finish its network. Sacramento is planning to use 20 percent of its transportation budget to make public sidewalks more accessible. Ithaca, N.Y., charges $70 annually per household and $185 per business to build and maintain city sidewalks.”

Steuteville cautions that porches or sidewalks alone aren’t enough to create social cohesion out of thin air. “But combine porches and sidewalks together as part of an urban ensemble, and you have the building blocks of community.”

Monday, September 11, 2023 in CNU Public Square

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