March 16, 2006

‘The Banning of People’

"One fallacy that growing communities need to get over, said [walkable neighborhoods advocate Dan] Burden, is that wider roads mean fewer traffic problems. In some cases, the opposite is true. For instance, wider roads encourage motorists to drive faster," the Desert Sun reports from a smart growth forum in Palm Desert. "Narrower roads, by contrast, encourage slower driving, while also encouraging pedestrians to visit neighborhoods more. . . .

"Burden showed a slide of one busy valley intersection, which he did not name, that illustrates one of the biggest problems facing neighborhoods: ' the banning of people.' "

People aren't really prohibited, of course. What he means is design that is so off-putting to pedestrians that no one actually wants to walk, even if sidewalks are present. How many people do you see walking along the Speen Street interchange in Natick, despite the presence of sidewalks? Zero thought was put into making a streetscape that feels safe, let alone pleasant, for walkers, which is why people at the Marriott hotel on one side of the street have to get into their cars to get to the stores and restaurants on the other side, even though those destinations are clearly "within walking distance." My office is less than a mile from there, but my colleagues from out of town who stay there when visiting the home office need to drive or take the hotel shuttle because the environment is so hostile for walking.

Why does traffic seem to be growing everywhere? "Even without current and future population growth factored in, vehicle trips for a typical household have increased 19.3 percent over the past decade, said John Wohlmuth, executive director of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments," according to the Desert Sun.

" 'It’s not just the growth. We’re using our cars nearly 20 percent more,' said Wohlmuth."

No comments:

Post a Comment