Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

(Sub)Urban Driving Manifesto

In "Distracting Miss Daisy," John Staddon writes in The Atlantic that there are too many stop signs and other devices that not only slow drivers down, but make them too complacent about safety. He suggests serious changes, making most stops yield signs.

I think that the article takes for granted an automobile-centric land use and mobility paradigm, one that is more common and perhaps appropriate to the suburbs, but one that would likely be inappropriate if not terrifying in the city.

A policy that encourages cars to keep moving privileges cars at the expense of pedestrians and bicyclists. Since drivers, for the most part, already believe that they have priority on the road, in places where there are many more walkers and bicyclists, drivers able to drive more quickly because of fewer impediments would likely feel more empowered to move more quickly and to drive faster, likely endangering non-drivers.

As long as roads are engineered to allow very high speeds, and cars are engineered to drive very fast (in the 1940s, the speed limit on residential streets in DC was 15 mph), reducing impediments on drivers is likely to be deleterious to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Note that another way to go is how they've done it in Graz, Austria... Read the memo To Avoid Suffocating of Our Cities in Traffic and a description of their Spaces for People project/ philosophy:
  • Healthier living conditions for inhabitants and people working in the city through a reduction of motorised traffic and hence noise and pollution.

  • More safety for all traffic modes by means of lower speed limits and clear traffic regulation.

  • Growth in appeal of the city as a centre of culture, education and business through well-designed public spaces for meeting up with people, shopping or just strolling.
Graz has speed limits for vehicles that are much lower than that typical in the U.S.:

In 1992 Graz was the first city in Europe who introduced a speed limits for the whole city: 30 kph (18.75mph) in all residential areas / side roads and 50 kph (31.25mph) for all major roads - for increasing of road safety, reducing pollution, and noise.

Also see this description of Graz from the Civitas Initiative website.

And my favorite vehicle speed reduction technique: Belgian Block.
Belgian Blocks, Monument Avenue, Richmond

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home