Monday, November 9, 2009

Street Design and Safety...

The Congress for New Urbanism recently wrapped up its annual transportation conference--this year in Portland, Oregon.

You can read more about the event and several of the initiatives here.

One of the most pressing issues in this area is how street designs affect pedestrian and vehicular safety.  For instance, in Montgomery, prior to the city's adoption of the SmartCode, most new subdivisions required wide streets, including in residential areas.  The problem with wide streets is that, even with lower posted speed limits, the effective design speed is so high that many drivers find themselves hurtling through the neighborhood at an unsafe speed without realizing how fast they are really going.

Add into the equation short houses with very deep setbacks and its hard to accurately sense your speed by comparing it to the surrounding building envelope. 

Fortunately, the CNU is working with a host of transportation groups and agencies to legalize context-appropriate street types.  In a nutshell, this means narrow streets and short blocks in pedestrian areas that intuitively reduce a vehicle's speed, while leaving the wide roads out in the interstate areas where pedestrians are neither intended nor permitted in many cases.

Along those lines, ask yourself this:  does your city legally allow 20-24 foot wide two-way streets

In many jurisdictions the answer is no.  That's an unfortunate (and, oftentimes, dangerous) answer if pedestrians are permitted anywhere near the street.  Especially when you consider the success of a place like Professor Cook's stomping grounds in Charleston.  Many of the streets on the Peninsula are narrow--very narrow

Yet, they are still safe in many respects.  Indeed, great value (monetarily, culturally, historically, aesthetically, you name it) is placed on property located in the part of Charleston that has the narrowest streets. 

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

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