Streets as Intersection of Community

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Streets, wrote architect James Marston Finch in the preface of Bernard Rudofsky’s “Streets for People” social history, are “…the most delicious experience of embrace and enclosure of any space on earth.” When streets are viewed as critical community assets and not just spaces for vehicular transportation, streets build cultural connections, foster improved quality of life and are essential to a community’s well-being and sense of identity.

Kidical Mass

From Kidical Mass, a family-friendly bicycle event; photo courtesy Living Streets Alliance website

The Living Streets Alliance, founded in 2011, builds awareness about Tucson streets as the most abundant form of “public” space and facilitates programs underscoring the role of great streets to provide inclusive, social space that accommodate and connect people from all “walks” of life.

If designed and used correctly, says Living Streets Alliance Executive Director Emily Yetman, streets invite social interaction, improve public safety, and strengthen ties within the community. “When you’re out on a bike (or walking or using transit, for that matter), you’re open to the world around you,” she says. “You move at a different pace that allows you to stop easily when you encounter a friend or neighbor, see a store that looks interesting, etc…. but even more than that, it provides a way of getting around that’s much more joyful than being isolated in a car — you can smell the orange trees blooming, you can feel the wind in your face, you notice the way the light changes with the different seasons.”

Bike to Work

Bike to Work Celebration Breakfast; photo courtesy Living Streets Alliance website

People, whether on bikes or walking, are a critical piece of great streets, she continues, and explains: “If we start to design our street network in a way that provides safe and comfortable space for our most vulnerable members of the community (kids and seniors), it starts to change the way our streets feel — they become places for us to congregate, to engage and share, and to express.”

Bike Fest Tips

Emily highlighted this year’s “Reggae Ride” to illustrate the fun, cultural powers of streets. Otherwise, she advises to check the Bike Fest Calendar for other activities including rides to the Farmer’s Market, scavenger hunts, bike-ins, night or breakfast rides. Check here for additional free tours during Bike Fest.

2016 Bike Fest Poster
Bikes make interesting community statements, Emily continues, with Bike Fest, coordinated by LSA, empowering members of the community to host their own ride or bike-related event, to express whatever is fun, important, or relevant for them: “So, people often do themed rides in costume, they all ride together to a culturally meaningful destination, or, local businesses offer incentives to show that they value people using bikes for everyday purposes. It’s completely open-ended, so Tucsonans can interpret it however they like.”

Most importantly, bikes encourage equity, Emily suggests: “A lot of people can’t afford a car, so a bike becomes a way for them to still have access to their community, but to also keep more money in their pocket to spend on the things their families need.”

She also suggests folks read Lydia Otero’s La Calle as we head into Bike Fest month: “This book conveys the importance of streets as public space, at the center of our social fabric.”


  • Check the PDF for the Southern Arizona AIA bike tour of historic downtown Tucson neighborhoods here.
  • A Tuesday Night Bike Ride in Tucson, which has been meeting at the Old Main Flagpole and hosting rides for five years, welcomes all kinds of non-motorized bikes and all levels of riders. Check the Facebook page.
  • The Living Streets Alliance was named 2016 Advocacy Organization of the Year at the 16th annual National Bike Summit in Washington DC earlier this month. Check this video from the 2015 Summit proceedings.

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