June 18, 2006

‘Is this a pedestrian-friendly city or a vehicle-friendly city?’

There's an interesting debate going on in downtown Dallas over a stretch of Browder Street, which is supposed to be pedestrian-only. But now cars are already using it, and there's some talk of allowing vehicles back.

"We give up so much to our cars and give so little to our pedestrians," Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt told the Dallas Morning News. "Allowing vehicles on a pedestrian way – you know what that's called? It's called a street."

"The city needs to decide whether this is a pedestrian-friendly city or a vehicle-friendly city," resident Brittny Garrett told the paper, after she was almost struck by a car while walking her dog on the supposed pedestrian-only stretch.

Some businesses are complaining about the lack of vehicular access. But frankly it's hard for me to work up too much sympathy over people who can't get their valet-parked cars delivered right to them without having to walk. Especially since it's pedestrians who apparently brought the street back to life.

"Two years ago, Browder Street languished, mostly abandoned by people and cars," the Morning News notes. "Then last year, the Urban Market grocery and cafe opened on the southern stretch of Browder Street's two blocks. Hundreds of people began populating the adjacent Dallas Power & Light and Interurban buildings, newly transformed from empty, decaying hulks into sparkling apartment complexes. Fuse restaurant and Crimson in the City clothier opened near Browder Street as well.

"They provided enough critical mass for pedestrians. Browder Street now teems with life throughout the day – businesspeople during lunchtime, grocery shoppers and dog walkers during evenings.

"But as a pedestrian mall, at least, it's falling victim to downtown's success."

Kind of like the artists who renovate lofts in marginal neighborhoods, eventually making them so attractive that they get priced out for their efforts. Looks like something similar may be happening in Dallas, where residents of the area want to keep the pedestrian area but others feel deprived if they can't drive every single block of the city (it's not like vehicles don't have access pretty much everywhere else). Said Councilor Hunt: "Browder is such a small thing for cars to give up, and it's such a big thing for pedestrians to give up."

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