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Archive for the ‘Pedestrian X-ing’ Category

I was out getting some donuts on Sunday morning and saw this sidewalk connection from the shared use path on the west side of Sawmill Road to the front door of Tim Hortons.  It’s so rare that big box auto-oriented retail is well connected to the sidewalk, that I thought it merited a post.

The rare and elusive sidewalk

It even includes a stamped crosswalk. Fancy.

Looking at the aerial, you can see that the sidewalk connection I photographed isn’t the only one.  There are several that I’ve highlighted in red below.

Still sprawl, but with sidewalks

The land use still isn’t pedestrian friendly, and I’d rather see buildings constructed at the right-of-way, but at least the sidewalk connections keep it from being hostile to pedestrians.  Where buildings are set back from the right-of-way behind a parking lot, this is something basic that can be done to at least acknowledge that some people might want to get there without a car.  I’d like to see these kinds of sidewalk connections retrofitted into old developments and required by zoning codes for new developments.  Kudos to Dublin for doing this.

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My wife, son, and I recently took a vacation to Michigan.  We left from Chicago on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, turned the corner around Lake Michigan, and started heading north towards Mackinac Island.  We stayed along the Lake Michigan coast for the most part, stopping in many little tourist towns along the way.  I didn’t take pictures in all of them, but almost all were very charming, with what appear to be very healthy central business districts.  I know the tourist money helps with the business aspect, but there were some trends and commonalities that I think are worth noting:

  1. Traffic moves slow in the downtown areas.  There were very few multi-lane roads.
  2. There was lots of on-street parking.  Angled parking was especially common.  Drivers looking for parking is part of the reason traffic moves slowly.
  3. Street trees were usually abundant, large, and shady.
  4. Buildings on the main commercial streets were intact.  There were solid street walls of buildings, not the gap-toothed building-parking lot-building-parking lot pattern.
  5. Parking was on-street or behind buildings in public lots.
  6. There was good signage directing people to main attractions and maps of the business district in many towns.

Here are some photos:

South Haven, MISouth Haven, MI

Holland, MI

Traverse City, MI

Charlevoix, MI

Petoskey, MI

Mackinaw City, MI

Mackinac Island, MI

Full Album Here

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A road diet is what transportation engineers and planners call a lane reconfiguration where a wide road gets narrower. Upper Arlington is planning to put Lane Avenue on a diet, reducing the number of travel lanes from four (two in each direction) to three (one in each direction with a center turn lane) between North Star Road and Northwest Boulevard. On-street parking will be permitted on the north side of the street. This should reduce speeds to aid the street in becoming a new walkable urban business district.  Here are some renderings from Upper Arlington’s consultant:

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My previous post about aggregate income densities as a means of measuring the potential for walkable urban business districts was quite popular, so I decided to replicate the maps (not the whole analysis) for Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) and Cincinnati (Hamilton County). Click on the map to link to a Google docs version. There you can click on “File” in the upper left and “Download Original” to get a PDF version with labels. The labels are in millions of dollars per square mile. This really isn’t too hard to do once you know what you’re doing, so if anyone has other county requests, I’ll consider it.

I have a couple of quick thoughts, but you can do your own analysis on these. Cleveland is more or less as I would expect. Ohio City, Lakewood, and Cleveland Heights are at the high end. Shaker Heights is also very high, and has some retail, but not much of a walkable urban main street (parts of Chagrin Blvd are close).  I would suggest that Beachwood has successfully capitalized on Shaker’s potential, not to mention attracting drivers from farther east.  Shaker Square (in Cleveland) has a high value though.

I really don’t know Cincinnati well enough to comment, but it looks like the Hyde Park area and downtown are the high end of the aggregate income density figures.

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This is a long post, but if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with what I think are some interesting maps at the bottom.

I’m currently working on a “streetscape master plan” project at work, with a focus on economic development for a 3.5 mile long major arterial roadway.  I needed a way to measure economic activity, so I looked at walkscore.com.  Walk Score looks at the walking distances from a defined location to the nearest grocery store, bars and restaurants, shopping, coffee shops, book store,  bank, park, and school.  The destinations are weighted by importance (see methodology here) and a walk score is generated.  There are destinations included that aren’t related to economic activity, like the nearest park and school.  However, the focus is largely on nearby businesses, so I thought it was an acceptable measure of economic activity.  Here is the Walk Score map for Columbus:

Many of the green spots on the map are locations with major shopping centers (e.g., Graceland, Tuttle Crossing, Crosswoods, Polaris, Easton) and some are big box retail centers (e.g., Sawmill & SR-161, Hamilton & Morse, Stringtown Rd in Grove City).  These types of economic activity centers tend to attract people from farther away, traveling by car.  These aren’t really what I’m interested in measuring here.  I’m interested in the walkable urban business districts that are mostly supported by the people within walking distance.  This includes High Street from German Village through South Clintonville.  The green spots appear to extend west into the Brewery District (Front Street) and east to German Village (3rd Street).  Almost the entire downtown area is green.  The segment of 5th Avenue in 5th by Northwest (north of Grandview Heights) is green.  Grandview Avenue would be too if it were on WalkScore’s map.  Main Street in Bexley is green.  So is State Street in Uptown Westerville.  These are some of Columbus’ great streets.  They are the places with the most people on the sidewalks, the most shops and restaurants, the least vacancies, probably the biggest parking problems too.   They’re the places you go for fun and where you take out-of-town guests to show them the best Columbus has to offer.

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US Rep. Steve LaTourette

It’s great to have a politician Ohio can be proud of for a change.  Representative Steve LaTourette of Bainbridge Township (i.e., exurban Cleveland) has co-sponsored a national complete streets bill in the US House of Representatives.  It seems that Rep. LaTourette has come full circle after creating a bit of a controversy last year by questioning the value of bike lanes.  From Streetsblog:

Reps. Matsui, LaTourette Introduce Complete Streets Bill
by Tanya Snyder on May 5, 2011

A bill to provide Americans with more transportation choices than just driving is one step closer to becoming law. Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Steve LaTourette (R-OH) just introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2011 [PDF]. The bill doesn’t have a number yet.

…LaTourette’s support for complete streets came as a result of advocates flooding his office with complaints after he ridiculed bicycling as a mode of transportation and a jobs engine in a committee hearing last year. Perhaps if he’d never made those disparaging remarks he would never have discovered the groundswell of support for active transportation and wouldn’t be the complete streets champion he is today.

…The bill would require that states and metropolitan planning organizations craft and adhere to a complete streets policy, with guidance from the USDOT, that would apply to all federally funded projects. States or MPOs would need senior-level approval and documentation to get an exemption. It doesn’t apply to existing roads or new projects whose planning is already well underway.

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The bill is unlikely to pass as a stand-alone bill, but creates dialog about what should be in in the forthcoming transportation funding reauthorization bill. I think the important thing here though is to see that some politicians do respond to comments from constituents, even when it’s about active transportation.

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It’s nice to see funding to back up policy.  From the Mayor’s State of the City speech on Wednesday:

And today I am proud to announce that we will invest $30 million in resurfacing streets and alleys in Columbus. This represents the largest single-year investment in street and alley resurfacing in the history of our city. More than 225 lane miles and approximately 60 miles of alleys in neighborhoods all over the city.

I want to thank Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson for her leadership on these and other capital improvement investments.

We will also be investing another $4 million in accessible sidewalks so our kids don’t have to walk in the streets on their way to school. Since we started this effort a decade ago, we’ve built 63 miles of sidewalks, which if laid end-to-end would take us halfway to Cleveland.

Finally, we will be investing almost $3.5 million to build bikeways and bike paths so we can make Columbus “Bike City USA.” By our Bicentennial, Columbus will have more than 110 miles of bikeways and bike paths, which if laid end to end would take us three quarters of the way to Cleveland.

At this rate, if we keep building sidewalks and bike paths, we will be able to walk, or ride our bikes all the way to Cleveland—since we won’t be able to ride a train.

I want to recognize Councilman Hearcel Craig for his leadership on this effort.

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Also see envious praise from Cleveland on Green City Blue Lake.

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I thought it could be interesting to see how many people live within walking distance of frequent transit in Columbus, so I downloaded some Census data and linked it to GIS maps of Census Block Groups.

Using a simple half-mile buffer of the three frequent transit routes (#1, #2, #10), I found that the census block groups within this area contained about 234,000 people in 2000.  That is 22% of the population of Franklin County (1,068,978 according to 2000 data).  That seems like a pretty sizable amount to me, but if we were setting goals,what percent would we want it to be?  More?  Maybe one third (33%) or one half (50%) of the population?

I’ll do a second post later to quantify how many more people would be within walking distance of frequent transit with various service improvement options.

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From WBNS-10TV:

Columbus To Upgrade Thousands Of Street Crossing Signals
Friday,  October 29, 2010

The city is starting a project that will upgrade thousands of street crossing signals at intersections throughout Columbus. About 1,000 intersections, including some currently without any street crossing signals, will feature new, energy efficient displays.

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‘Stings’ are aimed at crosswalk safety
Plan to focus on getting motorists to exercise caution
Tuesday, September 28, 2010 02:51 AM
By Doug Caruso
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

For the next few weeks, drivers who forget they’re supposed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks could be reminded by police officers.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is working with Columbus and several suburbs to set up “crosswalk stings.” Though police officers could issue $100 tickets, they plan to stop and warn drivers who fail to share the road with pedestrians. They’ll focus on crosswalks where there are no traffic lights and drivers are supposed to slow or stop for all pedestrians.

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If you’re a regular reader, you probably know that pedestrian accessiblity and safety are two of the things that I care most about when it comes to transportation. So of course I fully endorse this enforcement effort. However, while reading this article I couldn’t help but think that there may be times when it is actually more dangerous for a driver to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk than to keep on going.
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