By Barry Watkins, June 16, 2014
In my previous article Dangerous by Design? — Life and Death on the Rural Edge I talked a little about the need for improved safety for bikers and walkers on the edge of town. Let’s continue exploring that subject. First of all, let’s recognize there is a difference between how we treat urban/suburban places and rural places. But what about the in-between places on the edge of town? For the sake of safety I believe we have to set the threshold for pedestrian accommodations at a fairly low density. If the density is going to be higher than a rural density of say 1 unit per 20 acres we have to make the place pedestrian-friendly! In standard single-use car-oriented sprawl accommodating pedestrians on the edge of town can get very expensive. Fortunately there are some answers that have been proven to work.
Here are a couple of solutions that I believe would work well for Brevard County. Existing suburban development at the rural/suburban edge should be planned for future evolution toward walkable neighborhoods with higher density mixed-use centers. Greenfield development on the edge of town could be required to be structured in the pattern of walkable neighborhoods with densities that make walking accommodations viable. How would this look in the area surrounding Barnes and Fiske Blvds in Rockledge pictured below? Let’s see.
Fiske Blvd & Barnes Blvd, Rockledge, Florida
First, the intersection and streets above can be modified to make them much safer to navigate on foot or on a bicycle. The channeled right turns are great for moving cars and trucks, but makes the route for bikers and walkers a true nightmare. Eliminate the channeled turns. Truck turns can be navigated just fine if the stop bars are kept back a little. A few more simple changes will make everyone safer here. (This is not rocket science!) We need to cut down the number of lanes and narrow the lanes to 10′-11′ instead of 12′ to slow down the vehicles. Where there is a median, provide as a minimum a 6′ wide area at the end of the median as a pedestrian refuge midway thru the crosswalk. Complete the sidewalks and add continuous bike lanes. Provide signalized crosswalks in 2 directions and more often than once in a mile! The space between signalized crossings in this area ought to be about 300′-400′, not 1 mile! Add some street trees along the sidewalks for shade and to provide a visual frame of reference so cars will notice when they are going too fast.Walkable intersection
A bigger and very important change is to rezone the Lowe’s plaza to create a compact, mixed-use village center. Just about any suburban development can be re-imagined and rezoned to become a walkable place. When the right zoning and form-based coding is put into place car-oriented suburban places can be allowed over time to evolve into pedestrian- and bike-friendly places that are safer and more attractive for the people who live in and around them. The giant parking lot in front of Lowe’s can be turned into several mixed-use blocks with buildings around the block’s edge and parking in the middle of the block behind the buildings. The amount of parking required for the Lowe’s in the suburban pattern is more than would be needed for that same store in a walkable village center. The reason is that mixed use, walkable development uses the parking places much more efficiently than single-use suburbia.
Sprawl parking lot converted to compact, mixed-use blocks
Some might wonder if all of this is worth doing in a place like the Lowe’s plaza out on the edge of town. After all, how many people need to walk to Lowe’s? And why not concentrate efforts toward walkability in other places where it might make more sense? The truth is, this place, just like any suburban place becomes a death-trap for pedestrians and bikers when it is given over to car-domination. There will always be that rare person who has no choice but to walk in the area to get some task accomplished. If there are homes nearby then we ought to make safe routes to get there by biking and walking. Why shouldn’t it be made safe for the retiree who can’t drive, but wants to walk over to Lowe’s to pick up a light bulb or some batteries? Or for the child who wants to be able to bike from their home over to get candy at the convenience store? People will be walking and biking there. We need to make it safe!
When we build at a little bit higher density, 7 units per acre and up, it makes the walking accommodations cost-effective enough to justify. Walkable development pays for itself. It raises the tax base and makes the infrastructure more efficient. A true win-win for everybody! Walkable development on the edge of town should of course be planned at the appropriate scale. It should respond to its context and not be as intense as a place closer in to existing development. When development on the edge of town is required to be of the walkable variety this will naturally help to slow the consumption of open land. Slowing our outward sprawl will in turn help existing suburban places evolve toward greater walkability and encourage reinvestment in older parts of town.
Sources:http://usa.streetsblog.org/2011/06/21/bike-ped-defunding-proposal-sparks-mutiny-in-micas-home-district/ http://maps.google.com http://stroadtoboulevard.tumblr.com/post/40853050348/start-at-the-intersections http://contextsensitivesolutions.org/content/topics/css_design/design-examples/flexible-design-elements/crossing-islands-m/ http://sigitkusumawijaya.tumblr.com/post/9756168319/sprawl-repair-from-auto-scale-to-human-scale