Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cedar Springs Tragedy, Safety Plan

Once again, it is a shame it takes a martyr (or two) to get the city moving in a direction opposite its current inertia. In this case Cedar Springs, site of two pedestrians killed by on-rushing vehicles, will get some...facelifts? Here is a link to the list of proposed changes to the street.

Superficial treatments. First, these are cheap and easy, therefore extenuating I suppose. Regulation (speed limits) and enforcement (increased police presence) are tell-tale signs of a poorly designed street. That is, if we answer the first question that must be asked, "what do we want this street to be?" in the affirmative with a pedestrian- and business-friendly neighborhood main street environment, which is precisely what Cedar Springs is suited for (at least in Oak Lawn - on the other side of Turtle Creek it is best served al dente, as in Spaghetti).

Drivers will proceed at the speed that feels comfortable. Similarly, pedestrians will cross where they deem it appropriate. Regulation and enforcement have little effect. The question begs, how "tethered" do we want the street to be? Main Street in downtown Dallas would be a 2. It is similarly a neighborhood service street (despite the name suggesting greater pomp & grandiosity).

Main Street: "tethered" with common pedestrian connections and crossings. The pedestrian activity itself acts as the slowing agent for traffic. The illustrated condition is what I consider a "2". A "1" is where pedestrians cross only at cross-walks and a 0 is where pedestrians don't cross at all and are in fact repelled from the street. See: Lemmon Ave and every suburban arterial.

No mention of parking code amendments. Appeasing the car. It is parking and its consumption of land that spreads people out, reduces pedestrian activity, propinquity. With reduced parking standards, or eliminated maximums, the market can respond based on local cost of land and instead choose to potentially maximize the usage of that land, with more density meaning more potential pedestrians. More repeat customers. And less costly infrastructure necessary.

More study needed. More study by whom? Transportation planners? The people responsible for the road and every other inhumane road in the city? Or the ants in the ant farm playing frogger until another one is run over? Empirical evidence points to the problem already. No, better design needed. The plan suggests a potential "compete street." Unfortunately, the bike plan has no plans for Cedar Springs. And the city has no plan for the bike plan. Coordination. We Haz It.

That the local business community is the one pushing for changes. This is often one of the hardest things to do (especially when chambers of commerce are involved). Businesses are precisely suited to the status quo, so they inherently fear something potentially disruptive. You have to convince them of how it will improve their overall business. As Kevin Buchanon just sent to me, property values are up 137% on Magnolia Avenue and sales receipts are up over 500% since the installation of bike lanes and overall reclamation of the street by the foot-powered neighborhood citizenry.

Functional change. Closing of the right turn lane and island at Douglass and CS. Please see my post on turning radii and this map overlaying outdoor cafe tables with overly generous turning radii so that cars feel unimpeded regardless of traffic signalization nor signage.

Correlation is causation in this case.

And finally, the neighborhood pushing for the road to be reduced to one-lane each direction. I can hope that this was in some way inspired by my suggestion for Oak Lawn to go on a similar diet. Too often, our streets are planned and designed as a conduit for interconnecting point A to point B. Simple right? A street is linear. It is about linear movement, amirite?

Unfortunately, that isn't the case at all. One street is just part of a much more complex network, a meshwork of interconnectivity. In this case, a neighborhood, where points D, E, F, G, H, etc., are all crossing and criss-crossing the street in countless directions. Once again we return to where we start, do we want our neighborhood "main streets" to be seams or barriers?