PHOTOS: Philadelphia, THIS is What Progressive Street Design Looks Like in Seattle


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When surveying the world of urban design in public spaces, it's easy to find innovation abroad in Europe, Latin America or Asia. Harder to find are examples here in America. We have fallen behind the rest of the industrialized world regarding maintenance of infrastructure and innovation in safer streets. Change is coming however. More politically progressive cities are leading the way. Such is the case in Seattle.

Just a few years ago, this is how Bell Street looked in Belltown, an area just to the north of Downtown Seattle. Back in angled parking and generous turning lanes meant this street was devoted almost exclusively to cars. Some bike sharrows were painted on the roadway, but nothing in terms of protection was given to cyclists. Overall this street looked as dull as any other. Streetviews shown here are from 2011. 

Fast forward to today and a thoughtful street redesign has meant a lot of new public space, water retention gardens, bike racks and a street built for the community rather than just for cars. Materials selections would most likely need to change for Philly and road dimensions will vary, but imagine an intervention like this on Sansom Street or Bainbridge between 2nd and 3rd.

Room for parking, a parklet and furniture.

Large angled green space to create a boulevard type effect.

Stationary and movable furniture to create a social space.

The level curb, different materials and zigzags connote that this is a shared space woonerf. (pronounced voan-airf)

No curbline is easier for pedestrians of all ages to navigate.

Clear parking signs attached to existing infrastructure, no need for so many cluttering poles.

Zigzags to slow traffic.

Cars to park along textured lines.

Wide enough for buses.


Defined by material type/color.


Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August 2014 @ 16.51
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Written By: 
geoff's picture Geoff Kees Thompson Founder + Urban Planner Website: About the Author:

Other than time away from Philly studying his masters in Urban Planning in the Netherlands, Geoff has lived here since 2005. He founded This Old City to advocate for better public space as a means to economic development, improved public health, lower crime and a more environmentally sustainable future. He currently sits on the Executive Board of SOSNA and is the head volunteer gardener for Saint Mark's Church at 1625 Locust Street.


He is also Chair of The 5th Square PAC, an organization committed to voter education and the funding of progressive urbanist candidates for Philadelphia's future. 


Follow This Old City on Twitter @thisoldcity and Facebook or Geoff individually @geoffkees

Follow The 5th Square on Twitter @5thsq and Facebook