|This London cul-de-sac is a perfect living yard: Woonerf.|
According to the London paper, woonerf is Dutch for naked street. No, we are not talking nudism. A woonerf is a residential street stripped of the clear division between traffic and pedestrian rights of way.
|Traffic and kids at play share this suburban court.|
The word may be Dutch but according to Colin Hand the concept originated in Britain with a British road engineer and architect, Colin Buchanan.
In this tale of how the woonerf came to be, a story also retold in the pages of Architecture Week, it was a Dutchman, Niek De Boer, who took the Englishman's idea and ran with it or should I say planned with it.
Woonerfs are streets designed, or redesigned, to force drivers to slow down as they shared the road space with cyclists, pedestrians and children. De Boer named these streets woonerfs, or living yards. His woonerfs were residential in character and the first one was built in the City of Delft in the '60s.
In Toronto, woonerfs (pedestrian oriented streets) are planned for the West Don Lands development.
If you search the web, you'll find examples of Dutch woonerfs with gardens and pedestrian seating nestled in among the shrubs and flowers. These remind me of the court directly above mine and linked to my court by a well-used walkway.
When I first wrote this I was being a little facetious. Now, I'm not so sure. It's possible that some of the finest examples of woonerfs may be found in North American suburbs.
The Dutch government set design standards and passed traffic laws regulating woonerfs in 1976. Some suburban courts come quite close to following many of the Dutch government guidelines:
- Playing on the roadway is permitted
- Pedestrians may use the full width of the roadway
- Drivers must make allowance for the presence of pedestrians and children at play
- Speed bumps may be encountered
- The roadway may curve and shorten a driver's line of sight
- The roadway may be narrower than that of other area roads
- There may be flower filled islands and large pots
- Seating areas may encroach into the area of the street once designated only for vehicular traffic.
Some suburban courts, crescents, places and culs-de-sac answer many design guidelines for woonerfs. See the following pictures taken near my Byron, Ontario home.
|Narrow roadway is not car friendly.|
|Short line of sight plus park, complete with benches, all act to calm traffic.|
|A walkway links culs-de-sac making the distance shorter to walk than drive.|