Pedestrian Strolls and Promenades in Italy

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“The magic of the street is the mingling of the errand and the epiphany, and no such gardens seem to have flourished in Italy, perhaps because they were unneeded.  For the Italian pre-dinner stroll – the passaggiata – many towns close down their main streets to wheeled traffic. The street is the pivotal social space, for meeting, debating, courting, buying and selling.” 

      Quoted from: Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, pp. 178-179.  http://www.amazon.com/Wanderlust-History-Walking-Rebecca-Solnit/dp/0140286012

Solnit quotes Edwin Denby: “In ancient Italian towns the narrow main street at dusk becomes a kind of theatre.  The community strolls affably and looks itself over.  The girls and the young men, from fifteen to twenty-two, display their charm to one another with lively sociability. The more grace they show the better the community likes them. In Florence or in Naples, in the ancient city slums the young people are virtuoso performers and they do a bit of promenading anytime they are not busy.”  Of young Romans, he wrote, “Their stroll is as responsive as if it were a physical conversation.”

 

      Solnit’s quote from:  “In ancient Italian town the narrow main street”: Edwin Denby, Dancers, Buildings and People in the Streets, introduction by Frank O’Hara (New York: Horizon Press, 1965), 183.

 

Photo Source:   https://www.google.com/search?q=florence+passeggiata+images&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=iwQFU6LrMpCFogSF84LAAw&ved=0CCQQsAQ&biw=1366&bih=566

‘Patron Saint’ of Pedestrians

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The late Hans Monderman was a Dutch traffic engineer and former driving instructor. His work in redesigning roads redefined the relationship between pedestrians and drivers.

He knew that drivers were more reliant on road markings, signs, and signals than on their common sense and intelligence.  If drivers face more uncertainty and have to choose who has ‘right of way’, they are more likely to slow down.  Everyone, pedestrian and drivers alike, become more responsible. “A wide road with a lot of signs is telling a story,” Monderman said. “It’s saying, go ahead, don’t worry, go as fast as you want, there’s no need to pay attention to your surroundings. And that’s a very dangerous message.” (Quoted in: http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/2004/12/18/roads-gone-wild/)

Monderman’s simple roads featured public art, landscape and lighting. His early success in reducing vehicle speed in the Dutch village of Oudehaske attracted further work in more than 100 towns and villages.  His redesign of complex intersections and shopping streets caught the attention of professionals and politicians beyond the Netherlands. The EU initiated a “shared space” program based on his planning principles.

TV journalists would interview the humble Monderman in the middle of a busy stream of traffic. He would demonstrate his confidence in the responsible adaptability of drivers by walking backwards into the traffic. 

He died from cancer, aged 62.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/news/2008/feb/02/mainsection.obituaries

 Photo source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space