Home > Design the Details, Engineering Design, Tips & Tricks, Visual Stimulus > The Comfort Diagram: Who Is Most Comfortable Where?

The Comfort Diagram: Who Is Most Comfortable Where?

Graphic Friday

The comfort diagram: who is most comfortable where?

Thinking about the Bayfront and Grandview Parkway, and subsequent wasting my time “researching” online, led me to this graphic in the study out of Oregon titled Main Street: When a Highway Runs Through It (PDF). It doesn’t have to be Main St…we can easily say Any St. U.S.A. Locally, we can easily call it Grandview Parkway, Division St., E. Front St. or 8th Street.

In my post on Wednesday, I referred to the recommendations by the engineering consultant for street edge improvements to move us toward lowering traffic speeds along Grandview Parkway. These are the low hanging fruit that need to happen sooner than later to influence motorists behavior to better fit the land use of a gorgeous park that we are trying to fill with people on foot, on wheels, with kids, with dogs, simply to stand around and for future events. One aspect to that end is the planning concept of  height-to-width ratio, shown in the graphic above.

A sense of an interesting, comfortable enclosure is severely missing along the bay and is why edge treatments are so dire. For example, trees planted closer to the parkway would help the cause and need to be done despite complaints by engineers and motorists (the first will claim safety concerns (for motorists), the latter will claim that it blocks their view (again, for motorists)).

We also need human-scaled lighting. Currently we have highway lights perched high above the roadway. These not only work against creating a human-scaled place, they are increasing the dangers of driving at night. Have you noticed that as you drive from one light to the next that there is an instant when you are blind? Our eyes do not adjust quickly enough to adapt to the change –lighting is so key, and we mostly underestimate its impact and over-estimate the need.

What’s really important is that the City be allowed to landscape the Open Space. Tall, narrow trees (that we can see between), and low pedestrian level lighting, along with other measures, need to be implemented to achieve the desired human-scaled experience along the bay, and elsewhere in the City.


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  1. James
    January 21, 2011 at 8:34 am

    At the risk of sounding like a planning geek, I love those diagrams. It shows why we love cities where many of the buildings are 3-5 stories tall. (San Fran, Boston, Florence, most of Europe..)

    Even after elevators where around, quality cities were still built this way.

  2. January 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I shared this graphic with the City Planner today and he had an interesting cross-cultural perspective that he shared in an email. With his permission, I share it here:

    “I have seen similar graphics before, but not nearly as cute. The ratios for comfort seem to be based on US culture and perhaps the culture of several other countries with low density cities. Some delightful streets in Europe and Asia have a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio.”

    Thanks for sharing, Russ

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