Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #8 – Human-Scaled Streets


Barry Watkins, 18 Jul 2018

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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?

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Converting a car-dominated sprawl street into a human-scaled street. Image Source: http://buildabetterburb.org/sprawl-repair-is-essential-unavoidable/, photos by Steve Price, Urban Advantage

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.

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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.

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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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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #7 – Allow Positive Changes


Barry Watkins, 9 Jul 2018

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“Let them evolve!” This needs to be our cry for our neighborhoods in Rockledge. Our existing land development codes and zoning were designed to freeze development in stone the way they were originally built and not allow any changes to occur. Turns out, this not a good thing. Healthy places will naturally evolve in a positive direction if they’re allowed. Adopting the SmartCode, part of our proposed Walkability Plan for Rockledge, would allow just that. Some changes would be healthy and good for us. Good codes, like the SmartCode, will allow changes to occur but in a directed way so that changes allowed are always positive and never negative.

The SmartCode uses mixed use zones called Transect Zones (T-zones) to direct future development in existing neighborhoods. Transect zones are applied within a neighborhood block by block and lot by lot. They generate and preserve the character of places in a finely-tuned way, but allow some flexibility for things that don’t adversely affect character. Things like the specific use allowed in a building are made as flexible as possible while the form of buildings is strictly controlled. This perfect balance of flexibility and strict controls results in properties being utilized to their fullest potential but in a high-quality manner. This encourages good investment and helps to maintain higher property values and desirability long into the future.

Each walkable neighborhood, sized at about 1/2mi square, would be designed within the SmartCode to contain multiple T-zones. The higher density zone can create a walkable center of activity for the neighborhood. In your average suburban neighborhood, which would cover most of Rockledge, the SmartCode would call for each neighborhood to include zones T-3, T-4, and T-5. Each of these t-zones gets defined for its regional context. T-3 produces a large-lot estate home residential character, T-4 is med density and mostly residential, T-5 is a higher density mixed use main street. All the t-zones in the SmartCode contain varying degrees of mixed use. The lower-numbered zones allow restricted commercial presence and lower residential densities, and the higher-numbered zones allow more commercial presence mixed with higher density residential.

Once the SmartCode and Walkability Plan are officially adopted the Planning Board and City Commission would then organize a project to map the city with the new transect zones neighborhood by neighborhood. The SmartCode prescribes a process that includes public input at every turn so that the citizens get to have a say in how the city’s neighborhoods are mapped directing their future positive evolution.

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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #6 – Village Concept Plan


Barry Watkins, 6 Jul 2018

Here’s a stab at a conceptual walkable village plan for the city of Rockledge. This is just a very preliminary concept plan that I put together as a way of facilitating our conversation on how Rockledge could transform itself into a walkable city. The yellow shaded areas are potential locations for village and neighborhood centers spaced throughout the city. These centers could be planned as hubs of activity for the surrounding neighborhoods and help to meet the daily needs of residents within a 10 min walk of their homes. We can create these walkable destinations by zoning them as mixed use centers as outlined in the SmartCode. Once the zones are put into place this kind of plan would allow for the positive evolution of existing development towards greater walkability.

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Celebration, Florida – Lessons Learned – Using Retail as an Amenity


So, if you had to do again, would you do it again? While the answer to this question is a definite “Yes”, there are a few things that could have improved the retail experience in Celebration...’ Read full article here: https://barnesddm.com/news/2018/3/28/celebration-florida-lessons-learned-using-retail-as-an-amenity

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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #5 – Mixed-Use Zoning


Barry Watkins, 13 June 2018

Image source: http://www.placemakers.com/2013/05/02/ways-to-fail-at-form-based-codes-03/ by Sandy Sorlien, Center for Applied Transect Studies

Conventional Land Development Codes, like the current codes that govern most of the City of Rockledge, tend to create single-use pods of development that hyper-separate office uses from retail, retail from residential, single-family residential from multi-family, and so on. A problem with the hyper-separation is it creates a lot of driving. Where we work is often way too far from where we live to walk there. We can’t walk to go shopping from work or home… Conventional, single-use zoning forces us to drive to things just to meet daily needs. The SmartCode we are advocating as a part of our proposed Walkability Plan for Rockledge takes a different approach. Walkable neighborhoods in the SmartCode use mixed-use zones called Transect zones to order the built environment. With Transect zones, T-zones for short, residential and compatible commercial can coexist on the same block or even the same building. Each SmartCode neighborhood contains a combination of mixed-use T-Zones. This allows neighborhood-friendly commercial uses to locate around the corner from homes within reasonable walking distances from each other. It’s not “anything goes”. Each T-zone preserves the desired character of the portion of the neighborhood in which it resides by controlling building heights, setbacks, allowed specific uses, building types, and even architecture, and there are other important provisions in the SmartCode that ensure compatibility and neighborly behavior between the various uses that are allowed to coexist in a walkable neighborhood. #SmartCodeBrevard

More about mixed-use and transect zoning: Let’s Mix It Up!

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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #4 – Town Centers


Barry Watkins, 10 June 2018

While we are planning Village Centers around the city let’s also think about Town Centers. Town Centers can be designed to serve a larger area and provide regionally important amenities. One important function of a Town Center could be to provide local employment opportunities, helping to create a jobs-housing balance within about a 3 mile radius. This helps to shorten commutes, reduce vehicle miles on our regional highways, boost the local economy, provide local job and business opportuntities, and raise local incomes. Town Centers can also be planned as regional destinations that include restaurants, retail offerings, government offices, and higher density residential, beyond what is provided in smaller Village Centers. The catchment area should be about a 3 mile radius, about a 10 min drive or transit commute. #Rockledge #Walkability

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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #3 – Walkable Centers


Barry Watkins, 7 June 2018

Rockledge needs some walkable centers. Within the city limits we can plan walkable village and town centers within an easy 10min walk of homes to meet the daily needs of residents by spacing them about 1mi apart along the main thoroughfares thru town. Some village centers could consist of not much more than a neighborhood store and a transit stop. While in other locations the center might contain a grocery store, commercial offices, a post office, and apartments. The plan for each center should be determined by current and future demand.

To create and/or regulate walkable centers in most of our suburban neighborhoods and villages we can use the SmartCode mixed-use center zone T-5. This zone can be tailored for each neighborhood. It is designed to create a main street character with a free mix of uses on any floor and any location, mainly taller, attached buildings with very small front setbacks, and parking behind the buildings. We would typically locate centers near the geographic center of a 1 sq mi village and near a prominent intersection.

Shopping centers with large parking lots are great candidates for converting to a walkable center. The parking lot can often be divided into small blocks with small buildings all around their perimeters.

Image source: Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva

Small strip centers and stand alone buildings can also become part of a walkable center. The SmartCode would regulate future building when buildings are replaced. The code would encourage the placement of new buildings at the front of the lot and parking behind the building. Sometimes a conversion can be done that preserves the existing building by adding liner buildings to the front of the existing building with parking moved to the side or rear. Many creative arrangements are possible to enhance walkability.

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