Saturday, December 11, 2010

Madison Pushes for Skinnier Streets...

Wisconsin's state capital, home to the 2011 Congress for the New Urbanism, is considering the idea of narrowing a key street in the hope that this skinnier street will enhance pedestrian safety:

Under the plan endorsed last week by the city’s Board of Public Works, six blocks of Williamson Street, from Blount to Baldwin streets, will be whittled down from 48 feet to 44 as part of a project that also includes resurfacing the street from Baldwin to Thornton Avenue.  “It’ll work, but it will be tighter,” David Dryer, the city’s director of traffic engineering says of narrowing the street.

It’s not unusual for the city to narrow vehicle traffic lanes on a street through a “reallocation” of street width to allow more space for bicycles or to accommodate pedestrians at crossings, he says. But the planned narrowing of Williamson Street is an actual reduction of the blacktop on an arterial street moving traffic through the near east side that is barely standard width now. It would bring the width of the street down from 48 feet to allow an additional two feet of terrace on each side, paring the vehicular traffic lanes from the standard 11 feet wide to 10 feet in each direction and the parking lanes on each side of the street from 13 feet to 12.

Dryer predicts the narrower vehicle lanes won’t have much impact on the flow of traffic for the 18,000 to 22,500 vehicles a day moving along different segments of Williamson Street. “What it is going to do is put more pressure on parking maneuvers and the hardy bicyclists who use the street,” he says. “It’s a trade-off. The neighborhood wanted the wider terrace and the benefits that provided.”

Proponents of the narrower street say it would bring that segment of Williamson back to what it was before a widening project decades ago. They speak of a more intimate street, with the movement of vehicles slowed by a smaller scale and traffic islands.

Skinny streets are one of the most effective ways to slowing down traffic which, in turn, promotes pedestrian safety in urban areas designed for pedestrian activity.  The reason is that it forces drivers to be more cautious and aware of their surrounding because of the "tightness".  All in all, a much more effective approach than simply putting up a speed limit and hoping that the threat of a speeding ticket slows drivers down.

Read the whole story, here.

Chad Emerson, Faulkner.

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