Pedestrian ways

I. The passage

Category: Circulation

Subcategory: Thoroughfare types

Pedestrian paths come in a wide variety and are anything but simple. To understand their variety and complexity, it is useful to begin by noting their relationship to other movement systems, and where on the Transect they are typically found.

One fundamental division of kind is between those that are separated from vehicular routes, and those in which pedestrians and vehicles share a common movement space. The choice to separate, or not, ought always to be seriously thought through. Following the lead of Le Corbusier, modernist planning fetishized separation of circulation modes. The dismal outcome of a half-century of such planning suggests that separation of pedestrian paths and vehicular thoroughfares may be an effective model only towards the two extremes of the Transect, that is, towards the most rural and most urban conditions.

In rural and wilderness areas, off-road trails leave a lighter touch on the landscape than full road cuts. In densely developed urban center and core zones, vehicle-free passages and gallerias enable more convenient and concentrated pedestrian movement. In the mid zones of the Transect, on the other hand, it has proven the best practice by far to share movement space, while maintaining a balance favoring pedestrians.

For example, the taxonomy of passages (those pedestrian ways that cut through the middle of a block from one street to another) demonstrates the point. In a sub-urban (T3) zone a simple, mid-block trail is useful as a shortcut, breaking up blocks that often in such areas are laid out inconveniently long for pedestrians. In a general urban (T4) zone, a mid-block hiatus between building lots can create both foot traffic efficiency and a variety of building sites with less expense than a street. (The “Krier Walk,” first used at Seaside, was a conscious attempt to systematize the cross-block path.) In an urban center zone (T5) the value of frontage on a cross-block pedestrian cut will often justify commercial use, including the sort of small bars and cafés which, for image reasons, prize being off grid. In the still denser realm of an urban core (T6) zone, the passage may be covered to become a galleria. This type in a prime location may justify a full-blown purpose-built structure, with multiple floors and elaborate vertical circulation.

The pedestrian passage possesses what may be thought of as a high “valence” or capacity for connectivity. The passage is often usefully linked to segments of mixed-circulation lanes and alleys, for example. But it is important that the simple fact of linkage not be mistaken for quality of linkage; skillful passage design is essential to the success of rear-area parking, for example.