Urban sidewalks, critical but undervalued public spaces, have been sites for political demonstrations and urban greening, promenades for the wealthy and the well-dressed, and shelterless shelters for the homeless. On sidewalks, decade after decade, urbanites have socialized, paraded, and played, sold their wares, and observed city life. These many uses often overlap and conflict, and urban residents and planners try to include some and exclude others. In this first book-length analysis of the sidewalk as a distinct public space, Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Renia Ehrenfeucht examine the evolution of the American urban sidewalk and trace conflicts that have arisen over its competing uses. Drawing on historical and contemporary examples as well as case study research and archival data from five cities--Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Seattle--they discuss the characteristics of sidewalks as small urban public spaces, and such related issues as the ambiguous boundaries of their “public” status, contestation over specific uses, control and regulations, and the implications for First Amendment speech and assembly rights.
About the Authors
Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris is Professor and Chair of UCLA's Department of Urban Planning. She is the coauthor of Urban Design Downtown: Poetics and Politics of Form.
Renia Ehrenfeucht is Associate Professor in the Department of Planning and Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans.
"Sidewalks may be at the margins of streets but this broad-ranging book demonstrates how central they are to any sophisticated understanding of contemporary public space. Loukaitou-Sideris and Ehrenfeucht effectively show how sidewalks shape the design politics of everyday life in American cities. The volume commendably transcends too-simple and romanticized celebrations of diversity and encounter to view sidewalks in their full complexity: as places of contestation, sites of moral judgment, sources of economic livelihood, barometers of societal inequality, spaces of performance and display, legal and regulatory battlegrounds, and contributors to both arboreal beauty and desolation. Combining rich observation with interviews and archival research, this fine book shows how sidewalks are designed, how they are governed, how they are shared, and why all of this matters to the future of urbanity."
Lawrence Vale, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT
"One of the most overlooked public spaces, the sidewalk, deserves serious consideration for its social, cultural, and political importance. Sidewalks now take their rightful place as contested sites that offer opportunities for both democracy and oppression. Loukaitou-Sideris and Ehrenfeucht provide the guidance and balance needed to defend one of the last public spaces."
Setha M. Low, Professor of Environmental Psychology, Anthropology, and Geography, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
"Design of public space to encourage pedestrian life is an urgent need in neighborhoods and cities. As a major part of the public city, sidewalks are more than simple paths of circulation and can be settings for casual social interchange, promenading, and celebration, as well as many types of recreation, from jogging and games to roller skating. This book presents exciting new research on the social dimensions of public sidewalk space that urban planners and designers need to understand."
Michael Southworth, Professor of Urban Design and Planning, University of California, Berkeley
"We walk along them everyday. We depend upon them to serve so many very different purposes. Their design, use and regulation shape so much of urban public life. But do we, citizens or social scientists, ever notice or appreciate them? Fortunately Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Renia Ehrenfeucht have, bringing historical research, insightful analysis and advocacy to this essential but often undervalued element of urban form. I had hoped for such a book for many years, one that portrayed the full complexity as well as the conflicts surrounding sidewalks, just as this book does. Perhaps this is the best time for Sidewalks as cities and even suburbs in the US begin to acknowledge their importance while, at the same time, they are threatened by forces of privatization and sanitization and concerns over security."
Karen A. Franck, Professor, School of Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology