It’s Time to Reverse the Automobile/Pedestrian/Bike Paradigm

sm16th Street Mall 2602

It’s time to reverse the automobile/bike/pedestrian paradigm.

We’ve taken two way streets and converted them into one way streets to quickly move automobiles from one place to another. We’ve taken two way streets and made them four, six or eight lanes wide to speed up automobile traffic flow. We’ve increased the speed limits through neighborhoods to quickly move automobiles from the urban core to suburban sprawl. We’ve created zoning codes which require parking spaces for automobiles.

In addition, we post road and traffic signs to tell motorist how fast to drive, where to turn for the nearest attraction, where to find food and gas and where to parking. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the automobile is the only transportation mode on the planet. It’s not, so let’s put some resources into the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

Let’s encourage cities to increase the width of sidewalks to encourage walking. Wider sidewalks accommodate two way pedestrian flow and minimize the need for pedestrians to step into the street or adjoining lawn for safe passage. Let’s add new sidewalks where they’re missing and let’s connect missing sidewalk segments. Let’s add sidewalks along primary street with pedestrian destinations. The cost of adding new sidewalks is probably less than funding an ineffective three month advertising safety campaign.

Let’s encourage cities to eliminate right turn lanes and right turn on red signals. The right turn lanes and right turn on red signals encourage motorist to turn right without looking to the right before they turn. I bet this correlation is hidden in bicycle pedestrian accident statistics. Let’s rethink our policies regarding painted crosswalks. Crosswalks should be used to protect school children and pedestrian and should be placed at any intersection where they needed. Mid-block crosswalks should also be considered in long or wide blocks if they’re needed. The location or placement of crosswalks in a residential neighborhood should be dictated by the need for pedestrian safety and not by the perceived need to improve automobile traffic flow. Crosswalks are a quality of life issue for neighborhoods.

Let’s encourage cities to combine bicycle and automobile parking to their street parking mix. Adding bicycle parking reduces the need for automobile parking and increases local retail. Yes, you’ll get some initial negative feedback, but stick with it. It’s a smart decision and eventual your detractors will see the light. Let’s provide large bicycle parking signs, well at least as large as the automobile parking signs to illustrate the same degree of commitment to bicycles.

Let’s encourage cities to support pedestrian activities and walking. It’s good for our cities. It’s good for our neighborhoods. It’s good for economic development. It’s good for neighborhood employment. It’s good for the health of our citizens. It’s good for our environment.

Let’s encourage cities provide signage to provide pedestrian signage. Some cities provide pedestrian wayfinding signage where there’s a clusters of pedestrian destinations and in some retail district. But cities overlook the importance of providing pedestrian signage to promote community assets, historic districts, pedestrian trails; urban agriculture, urban wildlife, unique architecture; urban water sheds and other significant points of interest.

Let’s encourage cities to add value to city by leveling the playing field between automobiles, pedestrians and bicyclist.

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