December 27, 2007

The joys of ‘complete streets’

Sacremento recently transformed two midtown streets "from hostile, car-dominated thoroughfares to 'complete streets' that accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists," writes Lea Brooks in a Sacramento Bee op-ed piece. "It was a small but significant step toward making Sacramento a more livable community."

The two roadways went from three one-way lanes, all for motorized vehicles, to two one-way lanes for motorists and bike lanes on both sides. "Overnight, these streets switched from being intimidating to safe, convenient and pleasant routes for bicyclists of all abilities," said Brooks, president of the Sacremento Area Bicycle Advocates. More people are now cycling to work safely, helping to reduce both traffic congestion and pollution.

Truly complete streets create an environment equally hospitable to walkers, cyclists and motorists. They sport aesthetics so people WANT to walk, and allow for a feeling of safety for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as SUVs.

(Thanks to CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking, for the link.)

Locally, I was in Coolidge Corner in Brookline this week. That's a neighborhood of complete streets swarming with pedestrians as well as cars. There's enough interesting retail to make walking from block to block inviting; the streetscape isn't broken up very often by parking lots or buildings set way back; there's a buffer between pedestrians and traffic (on-street parking as well as some landscaping); and it feels safe crossing even busy intersections with multiple lanes of traffic, thanks to well-marked crosswalks, the trolley line breaking up the wide expanse of Beacon Street, and drivers who have learned to expect people on foot.

It's a marked contrast Route 30, when several colleagues and I recently dashed across on foot to get to REI. It felt hostile, intimidating and unsafe. At Leggat-McCall Drive and Rte. 30, there are no sidewalks on the eastbound side by the Fidelity/Bank of America building, no marked crosswalks and no pedestrian signals ... although there are hundreds of office workers within walking distance of that area retail. Bad planning! Planners should always consider the needs of multiple transportation modes, not just cars. Let's stop creating communities where there's no alternative but driving, even for trips of half a mile or less.

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