The city of Chicago is to begin a radical experiment with the design of its streets to challenge the privilege of cars.
The plan is to remove all traffic control features, such as curbs, road markings, bollards and traffic lights, in order to create equal ownership of the road among cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
The goal is to spur additional street life and economic development along the corridor, building on Argyle Street’s existing weekly use for night markets and Chinese New Year celebrations– Rebekah Scheinfeld, Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner
The theory is that by creating a "shared street", its users will be encouraged to behave in a safer way.
A $3.5m project has just begun on testing this theory on a popular thoroughfare called Argyle Street in the centre of the city.
Coloured pavers will indicate where the pavement would normally end and there will be a 15mph speed limit.
The Chicago Department of Transportation is leading the experiment with a design produced by US consulting engineer Burns & McDonnell and support from Site Design Group.
"The goal is to spur additional street life and economic development along the corridor, building on Argyle Street’s existing weekly use for night markets and Chinese New Year celebrations," said Rebekah Scheinfeld, the transportation commissioner, in a statement.
"This project was designed through CDOT’s Complete Streets approach and is the result of an extensive community engagement process involving local stakeholders."
The Shared Street concept is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s "Make Way for People" initiative to make Chicago streets safer for pedestrians while generating traffic for retailers.
The work, which will take about a year to complete, will be carried out in several rolling phases in order to minimize disruption along the street and maintain access to existing businesses.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, some aldermen had misgivings about about a proliferation of advertising and who gets to sell the signage.
Photograph: Site Design Group’s rendering of the finished "shared street" (Site Design Group)