Parking, parking everywhere! What is it doing for our built environment? Nothing good! A wise man said recently “Nobody ever came to a central city because there is parking there.” (Brent Toderian, “Focus on Cycling…”, The Press, 6/10/14). I believe this also applies to any place we want to make attractive. If the only big attraction to your place is that you have parking you’re pretty much in trouble. People might as well go to Wal-Mart! Am I right?…
In creating walkable places a key is to move the parking from the front of buildings to the back. This is the way things were built for the first half of the 20th century in the US, but then traffic engineers came of age and the rest is history — Cars now rule our world! I say it’s time to change that. The 20th century experiment with car dominant development has proven to be a dismal failure. Let’s move on and take back our streets! Last article, “From Suburban Highway To Main Street”, we were discussing how to transform a suburban commercial strip into a walking- and biking- friendly Main Street. Moving parking behind buildings is key. This will do 4 big things: It will make walking and biking trips 1) safer, 2) much more pleasant and appealing, 3) more convenient, and 4) did I mention safer?
Walking To The Store…
Think about this with me for a moment. Let’s say I had the brilliant idea of trying to walk from my home down to the closest grocery store and back to buy eggs. How hard would that be for most of us? Pretty difficult. Not just because it’s a 3 mile trek for many. But also, the arrangement of the parking makes the journey on foot from the street to the front door of the store very difficult, unpleasant, and unsafe.
What we need to do is put the car parking behind the buildings and move the front door up to the sidewalk. Brilliant, right? It’s not that hard to see how this would help us walk or bike there.
The SmartCode (ta-daah!) would help in village and town centers in a few tangible ways (examples based on the T-5 Main Street zone as in the last article): Parking would be required to be placed behind the front setback line, the front of buildings would have to be built no more than 12 feet from the property line, building facades would be required to cover 80% of the distance along the front of the lot, buildings would be attached or sideyard-style, and each lot would be a maximum of 180′ wide. In addition, parking would be accessed from a common rear alley. This would minimize the number of driveways crossing sidewalks and bike lanes.
But can the SmartCode accomplish the necessary changes in an existing place that’s already mostly built out? Yes, it can! In a place like 520 in Cocoa the changes would take time. The current car-oriented arrangement for existing businesses near the village center would be mostly allowed to remain until a change of ownership occurs. The market would determine how long that might take in each case.
In the meantime we would start to see empty lots built with new buildings that meet the new standards, and as existing buildings are improved and replaced over time they too will be following the new standards. The city would build alleys for rear parking access in phases and also phase in the addition of parallel parking places along the street. For bikes? The SmartCode requires that bike rack spaces be provided equaling 10% of required car parking, and protected bike lanes would be added along busier streets.
So, Let’s Do This!
Let’s move that parking! Will you support the adoption of the SmartCode in your area and help Walkable Brevard make our county a more walking- and biking- friendly place? We are talking to officials at the County government and in every city in Brevard about adopting the SmartCode and have had an overwhelmingly positive response so far. It will be exciting to see how quickly we can get some of these changes happening on the ground. A lot of it will depend on us, Brevard County’s citizens, voicing our support for positive change. Contact Walkable Brevard to see how you can help! Email Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 321-355-2747.