November 8, 2006

Framingham Lowe’s a Mixed Bag for Pedestrian Friendliness

I did a walk-around of the yet-to-be-opened Framingham Lowe's over the weekend, including some photos and a video that turns out to be too big to post on YouTube. Sorry I haven't had time yet to do editing and posting of the visuals yet, but meanwhile to summarize briefly what I found:
* The Rte. 30 sidewalk in front of the Lowe's is fair at best. While there's plenty of screening between the walkway and parking lot on one side, there's NO screening on the very important other side between pedestrians and multiple lanes of whizzing traffic. It's a well-known fact that in order to make an appealing walking environment on a road with many lanes of traffic on one side and set-back low buildings on the other, you need to offer some "sense of enclosure" on the sidewalk, including barriers such as trees or parked cars between walkers and the traffic. Why couldn't the sidewalk have been redesigned as part of the project?

* There's no good, safe walkway from the sidewalk to the store. At best, there's a path that ends at the edge of the parking lot, where a walker would have to get across whizzing traffic going to the rooftop parking garage. A much clearer walkway from sidewalk to store, including a way of slowing down that traffic to the garage, is needed.

* The pedestrian walking environment along Rte. 30 will feel - and be - even more dangerous with the additional traffic spilling out of the roadway between Lowe's and Target as well as the additional curb cut on the post office side for traffic entering the rooftop garage. The crossing between Lowe's and Target needed a redesign to include an appealing median between traffic lanes where walkers on Rte. 30 could feel safe stopping as they try to cross 5 lanes of traffic. Right now that's a barrier to a continuous sidewalk. Pedestrians who are not patronizing either Lowe's or the Target strip mall have the right to walk down the sidewalk to another destination.

* The walkway along the Target side of the Lowe's building is an improvement over what's been there so far, giving walkers a safer, more appealing way to go between the Lowe's/Target side and the Stop & Shop/BJ's side of those clustered big-box/strip mall retailers. It actually has landscaping and effective physical separation between the walkway and traffic - a huge improvement over the ridiculous "walkway" when BJ's was built which consists of painted yellow lines on the road where cars also drive if vehicles are coming in both directions. I take some points off for the brick wall and fence on the other side of that walkway, since blank walls and high fences are known to be unappealing pedestrian features (compared to windows serving as "eyes on the street"), but at least it's safe and an improvement over what was there before.

<!--Update: I've posted a 7-minute video tour of the Lowe's site (low resolution, flakey sound due to compression, no ability to zoom, no image stabilization, no editing. You've been warned!)-->


  1. That walkway along the Target side is pretty impressive, though we'll have to see how much of an effort they make to keep that clear in the winter. I was also impressed with the fact that they seemed to have chosen some nice native species to landscape with.

  2. I agree with all of the above with the added comment that the little bus station doesn't make much sense in that location, as I can't imagine someone going to Lowes by bus to "go shopping." Target would be a better choice, but I imagine Lowes was told to include the emenity in their plans. Shopping is for department stores and Lowes is more a targeted destination for hardware store buys that aren't comfortably transported on a bus. The sidewalk location is just a typical lack of imagination and thoughtfulness on the part of planners who spent months pouring over the design of this project. As usual, imaginative thinking is missing in this area. And besides, it's not politically correct to criticize a bus stop and a sidewalk.

  3. Any suggestions for somebody searching for things to ask for in a letter to a store (Meijer's - big box) going up in my neighborhood?

  4. There was a great opportunity in the development of Shoppers world?Natick mall. Of course the developers and the governments failed miserably. Thye had a blank canvas to make the area accessible by foot and or bike. For example there is no well design path to get from one side of SW to the other, just a vasy parking lot. The designers also missed the boat by not making it convenient to get from SW to NM. Not that it would be an easy take to get shoppers out of their SUVs to go from one store to teh next, but aleast an option would have been nice.