Here to There: Where are the Outdoor Spaces for People? ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Here to There: Where are the Outdoor Spaces for People?

In this week's installment of "Here to There" by Jane Shey, the Annapolitan-European shares her thoughts on urban design issues:
I have followed with interest the discussion of next steps for the Historic District of Annapolis including the fate of the Market House, downtown parking and empty storefronts.  It seems that the priorities for downtown Annapolis are (in order of importance) the historic buildings, which is appropriate, motor vehicles - both parked and moving - and people.
I have always felt that the vehicles have the best view of the harbor and the historic buildings.  The people, well, they just have to fit in where they can.  A sidewalk table or two here and there and a willingness to negotiate the obstacle course of parked vehicles and moving cars, trucks and motorcycles.  Downtown Annapolis is a drive-by area for people who like to cruise the streets, to see people and to be seen.  I heard somewhere that the reason we don’t have umbrellas shading our outdoor tables is because it would detract from the historic ambiance of Annapolis.  So we have great buildings, parked vehicles and very few people.
Let me describe my Easter in Cologne, Germany, a 2,000 year old city.  I rented a bike for 2 days and rode all over the city and along the Rhine River promenade.  I would periodically stop in the “foot zone” which was for pedestrians and bikes.  These areas are scattered throughout the city.  A bar or restaurant might have 6 or 8 tables inside but 20 outside along what was the sidewalk or street.  Parents with a baby carriage could park the baby next to the table.  Families with toddlers would be able to have a beer while the 4 and 6 year old did figure 8’s around the tables.  There was no concern about kids running into traffic because there was no traffic.  Yes, there are umbrellas, and outdoor heaters and even flannel lap blankets if the air gets chilly.  It was an inviting environment.  Several times a day a view, the sun or an interesting cafe would beckon me to get off my bike.  Parking was easy, stop in front of the cafe, lock my bike and take a seat.
Spending time at a cafe is an art form.  In Europe, we can order a coffee or beer and wine and not have to worry about ordering food to go with our alcohol.  Elderly ladies dressed in skirts and heels will primly sit sipping a beer and reading a book. There are the families that I mentioned and many other people just sitting and watching other people.  In some ways, it is like the food court at the mall minus the fast food places and being indoors.  And every neighborhood would have an area were people would congregate. 
In Annapolis, there are very few tables, they are jammed between the building, the sidewalk where people walk and the parked vehicles.  At best, a person can admire the second floor of the building across the street because the first floor is obstructed by two rows of parked vehicles, usually SUV’s and a row of traffic.  And on a hot July day, there are no umbrellas.
I am all for preserving historic areas and I live half of the year in a city that is 1100 years old.  I love my evenings when I can sit outside with a glass of wine and watch the people go by and admire the Flemish architecture.  Cities are made to be lived in, and  not to be so preserved and pristine that we human’s can’t enjoy them.
Jane Shey
Leuven, Belgium  

LISTEN TO CP Publisher Paul Foer on 1430WNAV at 8:15 every weekday morning or click on the WNAV icon to the right. READ CP Publisher Paul Foer's "The Ninth Ward" every Wednesday in The Identified comments are always welcome. ALL ANONYMOUS COMMENTS will be automatically rejected without being opened.

1 Comment:

Will Small said...

Excellent illustration. Thank you Jane! The historic value we have eschewed is the feet, carts and bicycles. We've traded that for decadent luxury, modern marvel cars that our largesse will not go anywhere without. I can go without the horse dung, but I would like to live in a place where people's rights and safety are more prioritized than their cars. We've built out the getting passageways of our city heavily for cars, with no compromise for bicycles and little for pedestrians, both being comparatively historic modes of transport, and the buildings have to be obsessively historic. It's ironic and we should do much better in the planning and building department to create a quality of life more like what you experience the other half the year.

blogger templates | Make Money Online