Officials, residents and planners in Seattle are investigating ways to once again allow city streets to be safely shared by pedestrians, cyclists and cars. "Feet First, a Seattle-based pedestrian advocacy group, supports [a] 20 mph speed limit [for residential streets] and much wider measures involving better urban design, traffic calming measures and generally reorienting ourselves from what might be called a car-centric orientation.," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes in an editorial.
The paper agrees that a 20 mph limit - which would still make it unlikely that drivers would be ticketed if driving 30 - "is just one of many ways Seattle could and should do more to protect pedestrians, make streets safer and encourage active lifestyles in an increasingly urban setting." The paper laments that Seattle seems to have lost its momentum on pedestrian issues. "Portland has surpassed Seattle in creating a transit- and pedestrian-friendly downtown, using speed bumps on streets and involving the public in traffic decisions," the editorial says.
The basic take-away here: You can't turn an area designed for automobiles into a lively pedestrian zone on the cheap. Painting crosswalks, while an important safety measure, is hardly enough. And make no mistake - well-designed areas with appealing streetscapes are quite good for both property values and the economy, as neighborhoods from Newbury Street to downtown Concord and Wellesley to Boston's North End attest.