Australian suburban streets have long been noted for their lack of vitality. As utilitarian and car-orientated spaces where social interactions are discouraged, such streets are arguably key contributors to social isolation in Australian suburbs. Conversely, where suburban streets are lively social spaces, third places such as pavement cafes appear to be key elements. This chapter tests this premise by investigating three suburban streets that contain third places such as eateries and other local businesses. Through documents and maps of the residents’ activities and behaviour, this study identifies the popular zones of activity in these streets, and investigates which of their physical characteristics create not just social spaces but psychologically comfortable ‘third places’ for human interaction. Through observation of activities and behavioural mapping in the three streets it has been found that zones of activity have been mostly shaped around cafes and food stores and more than half these activities initiated from eateries with pavement tables, suggesting their critical roles in creating such third places. This chapter then goes into depth to investigate how the physical qualities of commercial streets; the width of the pavements, degree of personalization, use of soft edges and greenery – contribute to pavement dining and the broader social transformation of neighbourhood streets into third places.
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