Ten Creative Ideas for Energizing Our Streets

We all know that walking has many advantages over driving—it costs less, it burns more calories, and we get to see the world in a way that is much less rushed, properly taking in our surroundings. Those surroundings, however, could in many places need a bit of a makeover. Retail establishments put a lot of thought and money into making their space a desirable place to visit. Our research has found that reducing vehicle travel by just one mile per day, per person in the 50 largest metros in the U.S. could lead to over $31 billion in generated savings—so why wouldn’t our communities work to make our streets a more desirable place to walk? Here are ten creative placemaking ideas to inspire our streets. We encourage you to share any more you’ve seen around the web!

1. Make it interactive.

STREETPONG from HAWK Hildesheim on Vimeo.

There are many different ways to inject a bit of fun into our streets. What if you could pick up a game of ping-pong or chess on your way home from work? Or a life-sized game of chess

2. Rethink Bus Stops


Images via

Just think of how much more pleasant riding the bus would be if you could wait in a strawberry or have a leisurely swing?

3. Embrace Graffiti

Image via GOOD

Tagging can be a costly and headache-inducing problem for city leaders, but by encouraging controlled, colorful graffiti art you can turn a negative into positive artistic expression in communities that could use a pop of color.

4. Add Color to your Crosswalks


Images via and Curbly

Speaking of color… our crosswalks don’t always have to be the standard black and white stripe. All throughout the world we can find examples of creative crosswalk markings and interesting pavers. Other infrastructure in the city can be re-energized with nothing short of a bit of paint.

5. Inspire through Public Parks


Images via

Public parks (when well designed) don’t have to be rolling green hills and a forest. Even a very small space can be made over into a small haven using the simplest of materials.

6. Don't forget the buses


Images via PopupCity and The Dirt

Though we certainly wouldn’t encourage a rainforest in every bus, this installation shows that getting a little creative with this public infrastructure could inspire some not so common users.

7. Make the Ugly Pretty


Images via Street Art Utopia - Leaning Tower of Pisa, Lego Corner

Things inevitably fall apart, as a fact of life. While many communities struggle financially to replace these items, there are people who make it a point to beautify them, if only temporarily.

8. Make Gardens where they are generally not


Images via Street Art Utopia and The Pothole Gardener

It’s amazing how little it takes to create a “garden.” From these hanging teapots to the simplest of seed bombing, a few flowers can go a long way in brightening up your walk to the post office. 

9. Think outside the bench


Images via Web Urbanist

The great William Whyte discussed the importance of having an abundance and variety of seating in public spaces—and definitely thought beyond the bench. I doubt he ever thought about Stair Squares.

10. Invoke your inner child


Image via PopupCity

Use the playground to inspire street and public space planning. You're never too old for play!


Which are your favorites? 


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