New York City has done a lot to humanize its streets in recent years. Using little more than pavement markings and some planters, the NYC DOT has taken some very busy streets and turned them into little parks and pedestrian malls. Like an oasis of paint in a sea of asphalt, these areas have eased the congested sidewalks and lured people to sit in the street, converting what was a place to get through into somewhere to get to.
The power of paint is evident in Milwaukee as well. The regular bike lanes we have added to our streets in recent years have had an amazing power to tempt people out onto bicycles. While paint is easy to use and fades quickly if any of these projects did not work and the space had to be returned to motor vehicles, paint is expensive to maintain, and there is a world traffic paint shortage that could get worse next year.
It seems that if these street conversions do help all the area businesses and the world does not stop spinning because a few lanes of asphalt have been taken away from the cars, it would be worth the price of some concrete, soil and seeds to make these malls permanent curbs, grass and trees.