In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Julian Agyeman of Tufts University explores how the concept of spatial justice can strengthen the economy and social fabric of communities.
Julian Agyeman is a professor of urban and environmental policy and planning in the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University. As an environmental social scientist, his research examines the complex relationship between humans and the environment. His work has been widely published the he holds a Ph.D. from the University of London.
Dr. Julian Agyeman – Spatial Justice and Urban Planning
We are in a spatial moment. Around the world, there has never been a time when the role and possibilities of public spaces including our most commonly used space, the street, have been so prominent in the news and social media. New spaces are being created and used as sites for recreation, such as New York City’s High Line, once a disused elevated rail bed and now a highly used urban park running along the lower west side of Manhattan.
In the current climate, city governments have become increasingly interested in reallocating street space that has been occupied almost exclusively by private cars. How do we make our streets more spatially just; in short how do we democratize our streets? Lowering both the volume and velocity of vehicular traffic has been shown to correlate with greater public interaction.
The US narratives of ‘complete streets,’ ‘transit-oriented development,’ and ‘livable streets’ convey message that streets are ultimately public spaces, and that everyone in the community –from pedestrians to bicyclists -- should have equal rights to space within them, irrespective of whether they are driving a car.
In Copenhagen, as in the Dutch woonerven, and in streets such as London’s Exhibition Road, the concept of ‘shared space’ removes the usual separation of cars, pedestrians, and other road users so that curbs, road lines, signs, and signals are integrated putting the 'public' back in public space. In this way, walking, cycling, shopping, and driving cars are integral to the ‘livable street.’
However caution is needed because some low-income communities and neighborhoods of color worry that changes such as the introduction of bicycle lanes, street accessibility improvements, mass transit expansions and upgrades, and pedestrian zone placements will foster gentrification, further diminishing their rights and roles in the community.