It's both practical and tactical, creating safety for pedestrians while also—with perches and planters in the super-powered curb design—creating mini-parks.
But what I like even more about the design is that it creates a mixed-use space for cars and peds by building in a shared zone. This exciting part of the design begins to institutionalize the idea that our streets aren't just for cars.
I've cheered on this sort of design before (when it's happened right here in Seattle), but Zoe Prillinger, from the San Francisco architecture firm Ogrydziak Prillinger, that drew up the idea for Walk SF, is more on-point about all of this than me:
A graphic black and white hatch pattern extends into both the street and sidewalk to make it clear that it’s a hybrid zone not strictly for cars or pedestrians alone. “It does two things--it alerts drivers to the presence of peds, it’s kind of a warning a visual warning that something’s happening, but it also lays claim to the street for the pedestrian,” Prillinger says.
“We didn’t want a strict dichotomy between street and sidewalk,” she adds. “We’re interested in ambiguity, the idea of sharing and negotiation--between park and city, street and sidewalk, and cars and pedestrians. All users need to negotiate public space, and public space can be enriched to support a greater diversity of experience than it does currently.”