Barry Watkins, 18 Jul 2018
A human-scaled street in South Beach Miami, Espanola Way. Image source: http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/places-to-see/south-beach-art-deco-district/espanola-way
When it comes to our streets I think we can all agree we want them to be practical and safe. I think they should also be attractive and pleasant to drive on and to walk and cycle near. They need to be practical — we need to be able to get around well and our streets need to accommodate all traffic efficiently. They need to be safe — it shouldn’t be a matter of taking your life in your hands to drive or cycle on the street or to try to walk or cycle across or along the street. And they should also be attractive and pleasant — this makes for better experiences for all users and would help to contribute to Rockledge being the most desirable place possible. Why not see if we can try to make our streets all the things we want them to be?
Don’t you think most of the goals above can be met better than we are meeting them now? One direction we could go that would meet all of our goals more effectively is to make our streets more “human-scaled”. Human-scaled streets are right-sized to meet the needs they are intended to serve. Most of our streets were originally designed and built after the 1950’s. Until very recently the status quo for street design since the 1950’s was to build them too wide and too fast. The reason for this is that our priority by and large in our street designs has been to accommodate as many cars as possible and to move them as fast as possible. Now many of us are realizing that designing with cars as our top priority hasn’t produced the best results. When we design things with walking and cycling as the priority while at the same time giving proper consideration to cars we strike the appropriate balance and produce results that are practical, safe, and attractive.
A street with room for all users. Image source: https://www.nats.org/2017_Summer_Workshop_-_Transportation.html
So what does a human-scaled street look like? Human-scaled streets honor their context. They give room for all users — They have wide sidewalks and bike lanes. They have safe crossings that occur often enough to be practical to use, will be lined with shade trees and buildings set close to the street, and have appropriate lighting at night. Human-scaled streets have features that slow car traffic a little. This is safer for everyone — drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. They have narrow travel lanes and appropriate traffic-calming devices like landscaped medians, raised crosswalks, roundabouts, and textured paving. They don’t have a lot of extra travel lanes, extra turn lanes, or channeled lanes, and they have small turn radii at street corners. Human-scaled intersections are sized for walking and cycling and not sized with moving cars as the top priority.
Converting a sprawl intersection to a human-scaled intersection. Image source: The Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva
The safety of all users is the highest priority in the design of a human-scaled street. Moving cars is an important consideration, but should never be prioritized at the expense of safety. Human-scaled street design reduces the number and the severity of crashes for all users so it’s safer for everyone and creates streets that are practical, safe, and attractive.
Planting street trees. Image source: https://bridgingthegap.org/event/volunteer-street-tree-planting-4/
How do we do it?
So, how can we make all of our streets more human-scaled? One segment at a time. It seems like a pretty drastic change in some cases to go from what we have now to human-scaled, and it is. What will make it possible is that every improvement we do can potentially pay for itself with the increased revenues to the City that it will bring. If we divide all the streets in the city of Rockledge into manageable segments and make a plan to phase the changes in a smart way that’s exactly what will happen. The improvements will pay for themselves. Each improvement project can be done with minimal cost. The result of the investment will be that the improvements make the land nearby more desirable. Property values in the area will rise bringing higher tax revenues. In some cases new building or redevelopment will occur, resulting in new impact fees and even higher property values and increased tax revenues. The increased revenues to the City can be rolled over into the next improvement project and the cycle keeps going. Small investments up front will be quickly recouped and instead of being a burden on our City’s funds will actually be money-makers for the City, especially in the long run!
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