January 7, 2011

Streetscape Designs

I love streetscape design. The constraints are concrete (pun?): a travelway of x ft across, including sidewalks ... and a question: how to use it? I've been wanting to write a post titled something like "Anatomy of a Streetscape" for a while, and while this is not that post, it is as useful an introduction as any.
Cesar Chavez Street, six lanes of asphalt that's the dividing line between the Mission District and Bernal Heights, is about as close as it comes to a freeway while still being a city street.
But unlike a freeway, it's surrounded by housing, schools, a church and a smattering of businesses. Now it's the latest city street in line for a major transformation to make it more inviting to pedestrians and bikes.

The plan calls for narrowing the street from six lanes to four, with left turn lanes at major intersections, adding bike lanes in both directions, widening and landscaping the median, planting more than 300 trees along the corridor and installing energy-efficient lighting.
The design calls for two pedestrian plazas, at Mission Street near Capp Street, and at Precita and Bryant streets; widening the sidewalks at the corners; shoring up and adding curb ramps; and putting in planters to capture storm water.
In addition, the sewers will be upgraded and the stretch between Hampshire Street on the east to Guerrero Street on the west will be repaved.

I've written before about how grade school parents make an excellent constituency for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure enhancement (Safe Routes to School, etc), and a few of the proponents quoted in the article were parents and grandmothers. Indeed, the movement for redesign started with a neighborhood petition in 2006.

In addition to organizing parent of gradeschool children, another tactic for creating more sustainable, complete streets is to run traffic counts. Engineering standards are prescriptive in the way they seek to create streets for specific capacities of automobile throughput. If streets see less traffic, there is a quantitative argument to be made that a travel lane for cars might be better used for median expansion/beautification, wider sidewalks, or a bike lane.

Given the amount of traffic on Cesar Chavez--50,000 cars/day, and its connection to 101--underuse was probably not a very useful argument. More info about Cesar Chavez redesign,

Starting a redesign as a pilot/temporary change is another way to get opponents to test run an idea. See the success of the re-timed traffic lights on Valencia Avenue. The green wave may not technically be streetscape/infrastructure, but it nonetheless directly affects the street environment.

Here's an article about similar plans for the Masonic Streetscape. Love looking at aerial diagrams like this one:


  1. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/about/streetdesignmanual.shtml




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