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Old 12-28-2011, 03:52 PM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
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I am thinking of traditional village centers, contemporary "lifestyle centers", downtowns old and new - what is the impact of road width - for streets within them, and streets that surround them? Does too wide a road isolate a walkable area from other walkable areas? Is it a matter of the total width of the road including medians, sidewalks, etc or is it just number of lanes? Is it the number of lanes as much or the speed of traffic on those lanes - I am thinking of places like Manhattan or Chicago, where there are wide avenues, but frequent traffic lights, and strong urban visual cues, that tend to slow traffic and make crossings more pedestrian friendly. Is a foot bridge over, or a tunnel under, a wide road a good substitute for a slower or narrower road with an at grade crossing?
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Old 12-28-2011, 07:53 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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I think most of the things you mentioned matter... but I would say it basically comes down to a combination of perceived threat caused by the road and width of the area used for traffic mostly. I think medians help - although they might cause traffic to speed up in which case the effect cancels out.

As for tunnels and bridges, it depends. If you have to go up/down a lot to use the tunnel or pedestrian bridge, a narrower road would likely be better, but if don't, then it's ok. Take for example the PATH in Toronto, which is one of the world's largest underground cities. Once you're underground, you don't have to go up or down stairs to go from one part of downtown to the next, so it might be advantageous over walking outside and having to cross streets (although the downtown streets aren't too bad). It gets a decent amount of usage in the summer too though (but not as much), even though the cold isn't a problem and the streets are not that bad to cross.

Similar situations that might exist in cities without a climate controlled pathway network would include paths around ravines, where you're already below the road before you reach it, or maybe some cases where the road dips below a railway for instance, and there's a path going beside the tracks over the road, like the West Toronto Railpath:
Bloor Go Station, Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada - Google Maps
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Old 12-29-2011, 12:27 AM
 
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Fostering pedestrian activity is based on a number of things, but if you're just talking about dimensions, people seem to like a space with proportions like that of an "outdoor room." Too wide and open, and people are uncomfortable hanging out in the middle--look at a big plaza and note that most people cluster around the edges. Too narrow, and people feel uncomfortable and won't go there either. But people like the proportions of a room, with a sense of enclosure provided by trees or shade structures or surrounding buildings.

Something like this:

sacramento, ca - Google Maps

The space linked has places to sit along the edges, and often the street on this block is blocked off for public festivals. When this happens, people just kind of naturally congregate in the middle of the street because the area has the overall proportions of a room.
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Old 12-29-2011, 12:31 AM
 
Location: The City
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Philadelphia is a great example of pedestrian city as is Boston
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Old 12-29-2011, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
I would say it basically comes down to a combination of perceived threat caused by the road and width of the area used for traffic mostly.
I especially like your point about perceived threat--which can vary from community to community depending on how accustomed people are to these kinds of roads.

In my neck of the woods, parkways are so commonplace they aren't perceived as a threat at all. Every community is laced with them so you become very accustomed to walking to the corner stoplight (or crossing underneath, or overhead by bridge). Unless you're a jaywalker you don't think twice about crossing the road. Visitors to this area might see the parkways as barriers, but people who live here don't think of them as a big deal.

Yesterday, when looking for photos of Reston Town Center, I came across a post from a woman on the Nova forum who is in her 80's and was a patient at Reston Hospital (on the north side of Dominion Parkway). She made a casual post about how she was recovering and took a walk over to Reston Town Center (on the south side of Dominion Parkway).

If an 80-something hospital patient feels that way, I think it's fair to say that wide roads aren't a barrier once you get used to seeing them. Having crossing signals are, of course, an essential part of this.

Last edited by Caladium; 12-29-2011 at 07:39 AM..
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Old 12-29-2011, 07:30 AM
 
Location: Virginia
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Regarding tunnels, yesterday I posted some photos of pedestrian tunnels that I will re-post. The key to a good pedestrian tunnel is to make it wide and airy. I particularly like the first photo which is really more of a pedestrian underpass than a tunnel. Since you can easily see the other side, the two sides feel connected.



Below, we see two views from the same tunnel. The first view is taken from the bookstore looking west, the second is taken from the tunnel looking east. When you enter the tunnel, you can easily see the bookstore--which IMO makes it inviting. This particular tunnel connects a residential neighborhood to a "town center" shopping area and is used quite a bit, which also makes it inviting. When you see other people using something, you feel comfortable using it yourself.




Regarding yesterday's posts on this topic--what is the protocol for this forum? I wrote an extensive number of posts on this topic just yesterday, as well as posting comparative photos. Should I cut and paste them here so that people interested in this topic can read them? Or would that be a faux pas because everyone's already read them on the other thread?
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Old 12-29-2011, 08:57 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
I especially like your point about perceived threat--which can vary from community to community depending on how accustomed people are to these kinds of roads.

In my neck of the woods, parkways are so commonplace they aren't perceived as a threat at all. Every community is laced with them so you become very accustomed to walking to the corner stoplight (or crossing underneath, or overhead by bridge). Unless you're a jaywalker you don't think twice about crossing the road. Visitors to this area might see the parkways as barriers, but people who live here don't think of them as a big deal.
By my neck of the woods, do you mean Loudoun County, or Northern Virginia in general? My experience in Northern Virginia suggests that yes, here in NoVa wide roads with fast moving traffic ARE perceived as a threat and are a deterrent to walking, even in areas with pretty good pedestrian oriented destinations nearby (like Fairfax Corner). Also route 29 near Pickett, Pickett itself, Blake Lane, Little River Turnpike, etc, etc. Loudoun County parkways may be better designed - the fruits of good urban planning, which Fairfax tended to lack back when the areas I mention were designed (though not Fair Lakes - that was simply very auto centric in design)
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Old 12-29-2011, 09:02 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caladium View Post
Yesterday, when looking for photos of Reston Town Center, I came across a post from a woman on the Nova forum who is in her 80's and was a patient at Reston Hospital (on the north side of Dominion Parkway). She made a casual post about how she was recovering and took a walk over to Reston Town Center (on the south side of Dominion Parkway).

If an 80-something hospital patient feels that way, I think it's fair to say that wide roads aren't a barrier once you get used to seeing them. Having crossing signals are, of course, an essential part of this.
at least the south side of Dominion has several large buildings/parking garages very close to the street (urban style) which may add to the "urban visual cues" mentioned above.

I would also add that I have found it quite pleasant driving in Manhattan, and not to hard to park - going by anecdotes one could probably show that any urban form works just fine for anything. Whats more important is judging how these things work in general, for large numbers of people. Unfortunately in most places data on local pedestrian volumes is lacking.
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Old 12-29-2011, 09:34 AM
 
Location: The Port City is rising.
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this study is interesting

Discovering Urbanism: New study sheds light on roadway safety for all
'“The presence of pedestrian-scaled retail uses, on the other hand, was associated with significant reductions in multiple-vehicle, parked-car, fixed-object, and pedestrian crashes. We attribute this to reduced vehicle speeds. Street oriented buildings create a sense of visual enclosure of the street, communicating to the driver that greater caution is warranted, and resulting in reductions in both vehicle speed and crash incidence.”
Consider all of the chaos of a Main Street scene. A driver is trying to parallel park while a cyclist dodges the opening door. Pedestrians are crossing at will, and delivery trucks are backing into their spaces. Visual stimulation is everywhere. The old engineering models would take all of these inputs and calculate a daily bloodbath, but nothing of the sort is happening. It’s a highly functional environment. The key here is that both the Main Street and the Freeway are relatively safe for all road users, motorists and pedestrians alike (although let’s admit that pedestrian safety on the freeway is purely a function of their non-existence).'
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Old 12-29-2011, 01:53 PM
 
Location: Seattle, WA
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I think the ability to cross the road without feeling threatened or intimidated by vehicle traffic is more important than road width, per se. Think about it--you really don't want to spend much time in the middle of a road, you want to be on either of the sides, which ideally are naturally designed more to the "human scale" (sidewalks, store fronts, ect.). IMO, for busy roads, pedestrian tunnels and overpasses (with anti-jay walking barriers at the median) are the most efficient and safest way, provided they are at convenient locations. One could argue about "shared use" of roadways, but the fact is pedestrians and motorists use roads for very different (and usually conflicting) purposes. Pedestrians want to go at right angles to traffic. Pedestrians don't need to "take over" or even "share" the road, they just need a safe and dignified way to get across! Safety should take precedent over an idealistic concern that the road should be equally available for all users. Now with cyclists there really is a need to share the road or provide alternative trails, protected, lanes, ect., but this is NOT the case with pedestrians.
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