I usually always have a laser distance meter in my bag. I use it when I’m on construction sites and I need to confirm important dimensions. But they can also be useful when you’re traveling and you want to appear as nerdy as humanly possible to the locals.
This is a typical older street in Le Panier area of Marseille, which is the oldest part of the city in probably the oldest city in France. Greek settlers colonized this area around 600, and at that time it was called Massalia.
There is one major street in Le Panier — la rue de la République — which will make you feel like you’re in Paris. It was pierced through in the late 19th century, around the same time that Paris was doing its large-scale urban renewal things.
But there remains lots of examples of what you see here: streets that are 12 to 13 feet wide from building face to building face. This is wider than your typical Toronto condo living room, but not by much.
There are, I guess, sidewalks on these streets. But most of them tend to be taken over by potted plants and other urban accessories. Everyone who uses these streets really just has to figure out how to share them.
It would be illegal to build this close and compact in most modern cities. Part of this is, of course, because modernity used to view this kind of urban form as being unhealthy and generally undesirable. Humans needed light, air, and space.
This is true. But we also like intimate urban spaces that put people first.