Sidewalks: Conflict and Negotiation

“What do we want from a sidewalk? Various observers argue that public spaces are becoming less democratic, and they point to the historic uses for public places to underscore their argument. Fewer explain the ways that people use sidewalks in cities now and the role that sidewalks play in contemporary urban life. In 1961, Jane Jacobs called sidewalks “the main public places of the city” and “its most vital organs.” For Jacobs, sidewalks were active sites of socialisation and pleasure, and this social interaction kept neighbourhoods safe and controlled.


Sidewalks : Conflict and Negotiation over Public Space
Loukaitou-Sideris, Anastasia Ehrenfeucht, Renia


For the average user, a street is the pathway of getting from one place to another. A street is a place where people live, where we can access a service or buy produce. However, by day and by night a street changes: whether it becomes more of a crime hotspot, a prostitution district, or in fact a sleeping place for a homeless person. Establishing and viewing common place such as a bench maybe somewhere you eat your lunch, but it may have been someone’s bed hours before.

Thinking about this I have thought more about what makes a home: I see rough sleepers with a Sainsbury’s carrier bag, for example, which carried their sole possessions. These are the same carrier bags which Anesis use to give food handouts. Photographing this artefact may be litter to someone, but it is a suitcase to another. A chocolate wrapper again may be litter, but it’s someone’s calories for the day. A new path layout may be more convenient walking to the station, but it is taking the shelter away from rough sleepers.


These are things I have been considering when looking through the view finder.

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