Comparison of Street Layouts
KES 03 - 04 - 2010

While walking through the streets of Xian on our way to the Great Mosque, the atmosphere oddly reminded me of a street from Barcelona that we traveled through earlier on the trip. Oddly, I made a connection between the experiences, even though the layouts are completely different. The Xian street was much smaller scaled with one to two-story buildings. It has one main street surrounded by two sidewalks, which are actually wider than the street itself. I am sure it was designed for vehicles at one time, but it is now mainly used by pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, and carts. The street shops are right up against the buildings, creating a mass of people along the two outer edges of the street section. Landscaping is minimal with one tree row attempting to create a more enjoyable setting. Bikes and other kinds of junk are piled along the curbside, cluttering the walking space. It is almost a random chaos that hardly seems to have any structure or direction. People use the sidewalks, but also the street to travel on, disobeying any edge or barrier meant to separate the different types of traffic. The street in Barcelona has a larger scaled design with four to five-story buildings. There are two separate lanes for opposing circulations of vehicular traffic. The center is clearly designated for pedestrian use. The shops are located here, creating a center focus on the pedestrians and their shopping needs. Tree rows are also used here to define both edges of the walkway. The buildings are all similar in design with their first floors established as commercial use and upper floors for residential. Overall, the street seems to be much more defined. Edges formed of trees, curbsides, and bicycle racks create defined spaces for specific activities. I felt much safer in this setting where pedestrians and vehicles are clearly separated. It is interesting how two street designs from completely different parts of the world can somehow create similar experiences for the traveler, reminding them of former journeys.

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