Planning for place/urban design/neighborhoods versus planning for transportation modes: new 17th Street NW bike lanes | Walkable community planning versus "pedestrian" planning
In a Post article, "How a D.C. building collapse changed the tune of the Bowser administration," about a recent about face by Mayor Bowser about building inspections and the agency that provides them, I've been commenting, because failure in the building inspection process is something that I've been writing about for some time ("Unresolved versus Closed as a determination in handing City inspection/service matters," 2019).
A point I made is that the city administration isn't particularly visionary or proactive, it's mostly reactive ("Five new forms: is that all you've got?," 2017).
Among other areas, this is the case with planning generally ("Five examples of the failure to do parks and public space master planning in DC," 2021), neighborhood placemaking and urban design. All the agencies plan pretty much independently of each other and very little is coordinated.
Which is why I am so focused on planning civic assets as a network, civic architecture, and transportation infrastructure as an element of civic architecture.
And the transportation agency, by default, deals with streetscapes and "place", but focuses mostly on transportation.
Which is why I advocate that the agency should have an urban design unit and chief. Clearly that the DC Office of Planning has an urban design unit isn't enough ("An argument for the aesthetic quality of the ensemble: special design guidelines are required for DC's avenues," 2015).
Note that VIA, the transit agency in San Antonio, has an urban design unit and manager ("VIA urban planner wants to build a better San Antonio," San Antonio Express-News.
While I have a lot of entries on streetscape issues, including:
-- "Extending the "Signature Streets" concept to "Signature Streets and Spaces"," 2020
-- "From more space to socially distance to a systematic program for pedestrian districts (Park City (Utah) Main Street Car Free on Sundays)," 2020
-- "Why doesn't every big city in North America have its own Las Ramblas?," 2020
-- "Diversity Plaza, Queens, a pedestrian exclusive block," 2020
I have a couple pieces that focus on urban design planning at the neighborhood scale, specifically using the Dupont Circle neighborhood as an example, with one of the recommendations being making a section of 17th Street NW between P and R Streets, priority pedestrianized, with it being 100% pedestrian on weekends.
Instead, DC is installing bike lanes.
It's not that bike lanes aren't important, but they aren't always the foremost treatment that should be implemented in a center city, given other sometimes competing priorities such as neighborhood development, identity, and nodes, promoting pedestrian activities, etc.
Not to mention the reality that in a center city, virtually everyone walks daily, at least for some part of the day.a plan by Pierre L'Enfant.
In the core, DC is a Walking City, and far more people walk than bike, and far more people walk to the 17th Street commercial district than bike, drive, or use transit, but there isn't really much in the way of advocacy for pedestrians generally and in Dupont Circle specifically.
Bike lanes are duplicative. Pedestrianization, at least for part of the week, would be transformational.
But I am totally resigned to the fact that DC planning missed this opportunity. Which is happening in other places across the city, in neighborhood centers that need other than bicycle treatments to strengthen their urban design, placemaking, and identity elements.
-- "Revisiting stories: Night-time safety: rethinking lighting in the context of a walking community and Detroit's reduction in pedestrian deaths from lighting upgrades," 2018
I know at the time it didn't make recommendations for pedestrian spaces and districts. It focused on sidewalks and parklets, which makes sense because pop up parklets were "invented" in San Francisco by a public space advocacy group called Re:bar.
Years ago, I remember being impressed with the visionary aspects of the Toronto Walking Strategy. And how Minneapolis has both a Pedestrian Master Plan and a Safe Routes to School vision plan.
Arlington County Virginia has branded its transportation pedestrian program as WalkArlington, which I think is smart, and they have active programming to promote walking, as well as the various infrastructure and safety focused programs.