The help it needs is not making it wider so cars can speed through from not here to not there, but making it narrower, so people on foot can cross from shops on one side to shops on the other. In other words, it should be moved down rather than up the hierarchy of roads. People should be able to cross these streets freely and without fear. McEvoy should be a destination, not a detour
Read the whole thing, and if you are a New South Welshman, feel free to get in touch to help WalkSydney.org make Sydney a better place.
The report observed that “the present street system, not only of Brooklyn but of other large towns, has serious defects for which, sooner or later, if these towns should continue to advance in wealth, remedies must be devised, the cost of which will be extravagantly increased by a long delay in the determination of the outlines.” The chief drawback, according to Olmsted, was the undifferentiated grid plan with its network of intersecting, uniform streets. He had already spelled out his opposition to this characteristic nineteenth-century device in his report on San Francisco. “On a level plain, like the city of Philadelphia, a series of streets at right-angles to each other is perfectly feasible, and the design is as simple in execution as it appears on paper,” he had written, “but even where the circumstances of site are favorable [emphasis added] for this formal and repetitive arrangement, it presents a dull and inartistic appearance, and in such a hilly position as that of San Francisco, it is very inappropriate.”
Olmsted and Vaux proposed modifying the grid. Their solution … called it a “Parkway.” The parkway was a 260-foot-wide avenue divided into five traffic lanes, each separated by a row of trees. The two outside lanes were reserved for commercial vehicles …. The parkway was an essential link. For him the “metropolitan condition” included cities and suburbs.
Unlike modernist city planners of the 1920s, Olmsted was neither a radical nor a utopian; he believed that it was possible “to realize familiar and traditional ideals under novel circumstances.” This attitude appealed to civic leaders, businessmen, and politicians alike and explains why his planning proposals were easily accepted.
[Describing the collection of architects at the White City of the Chicago World’s Fair] “Look here, old fellow, do you realize that this is the greatest meeting of artists since the fifteenth century!”
According to him, landscape architecture involved composition and perspective in which details were subordinate to the whole, contrary to decorative gardening, which treated “roses as roses, not as flecks of white or red modifying masses of green.”
Olmsted is a fascinating individual who went through many careers, a farmer, a travel- writer who visited the south before the Civil War, and of course later in life a landscape architect
He was not a transportation planner as such, though his development of parkways and multi-way boulevards did contribute in an important ways to transportation designs and should be used more. One could argue he anticipated the idea of complete streets, serving multiple modes of transportation in the same corridor, to improve not only aesthetic design, but efficiency and equity.
We recently did a study showing how the quality of environment, including the presence of trees, at transit stops affected riders perception of time. Nicer environments reduced people’s overestimate of wait time. A similar observation holds with driving experience, people prefer to drive on boulevards than channelized freeways. This isn’t surprising, but it doesn’t fit much into standard engineering design of either roads or transit stops and stations. Since we are designing for people, it should.
Olmsted also developed garden suburbs, and opposed the rectilinear street grid. I think it depends on how you use it, and what you do in residential neighborhoods should differ from what you do in commercial areas. And what you can and should do depends in part on the transportation technology you are trying to facilitate. How you design for trains differs from pedestrians, and those, which need to be more direct, differ from automated vehicles, which we are only now beginning to think about.
In the beginning was the path. It was undifferentiated, shared by people and animals alike, and eventually wheeled vehicles pulled by humans and animals. While dating the First Path is impossible — the very first First Path must have been a path that was reused once, and slightly better than the unimproved space around it — it operated both in early settlements and on routes connecting nearby settlements.
Today’s version of that is the sidewalk or footpath. It is now used for people walking, sometimes for people moving goods, and occasionally for people on scooters and bicycles. It should not be used for storing cars, though it is. New uses will include low speed delivery robots, as shown in the photo from Starship.
When we see a raised crosswalk, we know the First Path is given the pre-eminance its venerable status warrants. When we see shared spaces, we know those harken back to the early undifferentiated path-spaces of earlier centuries. When we see pedestrian-only zones, we see a First Path that has grown up.
The Second Path diverges from the first path with the emergence of the first street or roads with sidewalks (footpaths). Spiro Kostof (1992) dates it to about 2000 BCE in Anatolia. And it is clear many Roman and Greek cities separated sidewalks from streets, which the Romans called Semita.
Post-Rome, sidewalks were rare, making appearances in London after the Great Fire, and in Paris after Haussman.
But to be clear, today’s sidewalk is not the second path, it is the first. The second path is the road which is largely free of pedestrians, intended for the movement of vehicles. Originally these were animal powered vehicles, as well as human. Later fuel-powered machines took over the street and roads.
The Third Path actually emerged well before the Second Path was colonized by motorized vehicles. It is for bicycles, and initially was paved in contrast with the unpaved streets and roads of its time. Given the first Velocipede was only 1817, and the first bike chain (which we associate with modern bicycles) was 1885, these came relatively quickly compared with the First and Second Paths. While ascertaining the first bike lane or separated bike path is tricky (there are many claims, differing in nuance), I have compiled some claimed firsts and earlies here (thanks to people who replied on Twitter):
While bike lanes have now been around as a technology for well more than a century, throughout most of North America and Australia, bike lanes are not provisioned, so bicyclists have the Hobson’s Choice of driving in traffic with much heavier and much faster automobiles and trucks on the Second Path, the roadbed or illegally in many cases on the First Path, the sidewalk.
With the advent of the smart phone, new modes are becoming feasible, most notably dockless shared bikes and scooters.
Regulations in many places limit the use of bikes on footpaths. The reasons for this are clear from the pedestrian’s point of view, bikes are traveling up to 4 times faster than walkers, and collision can create injury. Dockless shared bikes emerged in Australia in 2017, after a few years on the road in China. Their main contribution has however not been transport (they are used about once every 3 days) but instead as a the recipient of complaint about sidewalk clutter (unlike say cars, which are always parked perfectly). As a consequences they have been targets of vandalism. The obvious solution will eventually get adopted, geofenced corrals for parking bikes (shared and private), taking away one parking space per block perhaps.
Given the disparities of speeds on the first (5 km/h) and second paths (30-120 km/h), there is a clear market niche for an infrastructure network for vehicles faster than foot and slower than cars. Physically, one imagines it generally lying between the existing kerb and removing a lane now devoted to the storage or movement of cars. And for many if not most urban places globally, this has been recognized and networks of third paths have been, or will be, built out.
This Third Path is important not just for bikes, but for electric bikes (which are becoming increasingly feasible with progress in battery technology) and electric scooters.
A Fourth Path for buses (and other high occupancy vehicles) is also now considered. The first bus lane emerged in Chicago in 1940. The reason for bus lanes again is in part operational differences compared with existing road users. Buses start and stop in traffic much more frequently than cars. But a second reason is in fact the opposite, not because buses would block cars, but because cars would block buses. Buses carry more passengers than cars, and so should move faster, and can do so if they are not stuck in queues behind cars.
The Kerb – Once a nondescript piece of concrete now forms the edge (both physically and metaphorically) of the sharing economy: taxis, Ubers, autonomous mobility services. The Kerbspace differentiates and separates paths, but we now have new questions:
Who manages kerbspace?
How is it regulated?
Is it even mapped?
The complete streets movement advocates for streets with sidewalks, bike paths, and are otherwise designed to promote safety and efficiency. The figure below is not exactly what they have in mind.
The Right-Of-Way When Using Crosswalks: Motorists failing to yield the right-of-way at crosswalks is the No. 1 dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Motorists “shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” Motorists must always stop for pedestrians crossing at streets corners, with or without traffic signal lights and whether or not the crosswalk is marked by painted lines. Further, even if the marked crosswalk is the middle of the block, motorists must stop for pedestrians.
The Right To Unimpeded Use Of A Crosswalk: A crosswalk is the part of the roadway set aside for pedestrian traffic. Motorists and bicyclists must stop behind the line at traffic signals and stop signs.
The Right Not To Be Struck By A Speeding Vehicle: Motorists traveling at an unsafe speed is the second most dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Speeding increases stopping distance and collision force. When a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour, there is a 90 percent chance of survival. The survival rate drops to 20 percent if a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour. Motorists approaching a pedestrian “within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.”
The Right Not To Be Struck In The Roadway: While pedestrians should not jaywalk and always use crosswalks to cross a roadway, even if the pedestrian is within a portion of the roadway other than a crosswalk motorists must slow down. Motorists are under the duty “exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian” no matter where the pedestrian is on the roadway. This rule also applies to bicyclists because, as a rule, bicyclists have the same duties and responsibilities as motorists.
The Right To Unimpeded Use Of Sidewalks: Adult bicyclists, and even teenage bicyclists, are prohibited from riding on sidewalks in most California cities. In San Francisco, it is illegal to bike on a sidewalk if the bicyclist is 13 years of age or older. Of course, bicyclists can dismount and walk their bike on sidewalk. At that point, they are pedestrians under the law.
1. When traffic laws say pedestrians have the right of way, that shouldn’t just mean that if you’re hit by a car, it’s not your fault. People on foot shouldn’t have to fear, evade, negotiate or maneuver around cars, whether moving or parked, just because planners routinely put the convenience of people inside vehicles far above that of people using their own two feet.
2. No pedestrian should ever find that the only way to reach that store or office on foot is to cross a huge desert of asphalt, with moving cars threatening on all sides. Any parking area with more than two rows of stalls should be required to have a pedestrian walkway running down the strip where cars usually face off nose-to-nose. If these walkways reduce the space available for parking cars, well, boo hoo. Cars already take up 20 times as much space as a person does. Enough is enough.
3. No pedestrian should ever be expected to cross more than four lanes of traffic, whether or not there are crossing signals present. The vast six- and even eight-lane boulevards that are being imposed on more and more of our suburbs tear neighborhoods apart and form virtual Grand Canyons to people on foot.
Once and for all, planners should shake the wrongheaded belief that the way to fix traffic congestion is to make roads wider. This is like telling a 400-pound man with a heart condition that what he really needs is some bigger pants. The wider we make our roads, the more traffic will arrive to fill them up, and the more impassable our cities will become to people on foot.
4. In dense urban areas, pedestrians should be free to shop, stroll or sightsee without constant threat of assault by cars, buses or taxis. Hence, planners should provide centralized public parking at the fringe of city cores, offer a shuttle service and make downtown blocks pedestrian-only zones. Sedentary car jockeys would benefit from having to walk a few steps to get where they’re going, and the rest of us would be blessed with a quieter, greener and less-polluted city.
5. Lastly, American planners should recognize that, in relative terms, cars are a mere fleeting speck of technology, like the chariot, the man-of-war and the steam locomotive. We bipeds, on the other hand, are hopefully here for the long run. It’s just plain dumb to continue building an entire nation around a machine that’ll likely be obsolete in 50 years — especially considering that, no matter what takes its place, we’ll always want to get around on our own two feet.
So the moral question: should we change our planning for pedestrians to ensure safety from a crazy person in a van, terrorists, drunk drivers, just incapacitated drivers. This is not the first, and will not be the last, time a driver plows down pedestrians. By doing so we show weakness to terrorists? Are we converting the outdoors to a Zoo placing pedestrians in cages. Should the woonerf, for example, be like an open zoo.
It’s a moral and ethical question how much separation should we have in an era when crazy people uses cars as weapons to kill random humans. How many incidents and deaths will it take to change the approach for pedestrian environments to make it as safe as air travel. If we add more small obstacles, how much will they spoil the pedestrian environment and sense of freedom.
The crazy person in a van problem is only going to get worse with automation and especially connectivity, a remote control car bomb is even easier than a suicide.
In my view, cars should be in the cages, the people should be free. And then the cages need to be made smaller and smaller.
All urban streets in heavily pedestrian trafficked areas should have bollards or equivalent to keep the cars away from the people. Woonerfs are fine for residential streets, and if people want to encroach on shared space that is also fine, but cars should not encroach on people space. Just as we don’t let cars in most buildings, there should be outdoor public spaces where they are also prohibited.
We don’t need fences or chains like in the photo of Egypt, just lots of posts (trees, bike racks, benches, bus stops, street furniture, planters etc.) that make it impossible for a car to run down the sidewalk or into buildings. This furniture of course should not interfere with the free flowing movement of people, and might require taking lanes from the storage, or even movement, of cars. As with all good urban design, examples of this are in Delft, with some lowerable Bollards to allow service, emergency, and freight vehicles in when needed.
A new report from the University’s Accessibility Observatory estimates the accessibility to jobs by auto for each of the 11 million U.S. census blocks and analyzes these data in the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas.
“Accessibility is the ease and feasibility of reaching valuable destinations,” says Andrew Owen, director of the Observatory. “Job accessibility is an important consideration in the attractiveness and usefulness of a place or area.”
Travel times are calculated using a detailed road network and speed data that reflect typical conditions for an 8 a.m. Wednesday morning departure. Additionally, the accessibility results for 8 a.m. are compared with accessibility results for 4 a.m. to estimate the impact of road and highway congestion on job accessibility.
Rankings are determined by a weighted average of accessibility, with a higher weight given to closer, easier-to-access jobs. Jobs reachable within 10 minutes are weighted most heavily, and jobs are given decreasing weights as travel time increases up to 60 minutes.
Based on this measure, the research team calculated the 10 metropolitan areas with the greatest accessibility to jobs by auto (see sidebar).
A similar weighting approach was applied to calculate an average congestion impact for each metropolitan area. Based on this measure, the team calculated the 10 metropolitan areas where workers experience, on average, the greatest reduction in job access due to congestion (see sidebar).
Areas with the greatest loss in job accessibility due to congestion
Metropolitan areas with the greatest job accessibility by auto
“Rather than focusing on how congestion affects individual travelers, our approach quantifies the overall impact that congestion has on the potential for interaction within urban areas,” Owen explains.
“For example, the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area ranked 12th in terms of job accessibility but 23rd in the reduction in job access due to congestion,” he says. “This suggests that job accessibility is influenced less by congestion here than in other cities.”
The report—Access Across America: Auto 2015—presents detailed accessibility and congestion impact values for each metropolitan area as well as block-level maps that illustrate the spatial patterns of accessibility within each area. It also includes a census tract-level map that shows accessibility patterns at a national scale.
The research was sponsored by the National Accessibility Evaluation Pooled-Fund Study, a multi-year effort led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and supported by partners including the Federal Highway Administration and 10 state DOTs.
This blog is about streets and yet we rarely talk about pavements, the road surface itself. The most common materials are bituminous asphalt and concrete, with asphalt more common on low volume local roads and concrete on higher volume freeways. The general reputation is that concrete is stronger and longer lasting but more expensive and more difficult to construct and takes longer to set.
For a brief window in the late 2000s, concrete actually had a price advantage, which explains the surface for the Marq/2 project in Minneapolis. They have other properties and claims made about them. For details on the pavement wars see ConcreteIsBetter.com and AsphaltIsBest.com (seriously, visit their sites, then come back (better yet, visit their sites from 10 or 12 years ago at archive.org (concrete) (asphalt)). Grammatically, if there were only two choices, the concrete folks would be more accurate. However there are more than two choices.
A third choice is plank roads. These were once common (in the 1840s and 1850s) when forests were still virgin and it was an improvement over dirt, and more cost effective, were it to last. Sadly it did not last. To recall the days of plank roads the Mill City Museum had a plank section installed just outside on West River parkway. Sadly recalling the earlier experience with plank roads, it too rotted before its time, and the other disadvantages (rough surface compared to asphalt) led to it being pulled out on the auto path, though it remains for the bike/walk path.
A fourth choice is brick. Fans of the Woonerf, as I have been since reading Streets Ahead, know that many neighborhood streets in the Netherlands have either retained or been restored to a brick or cobblestone surface. This encourages vehicles to slow down and connects the walking, playing, parking, and driving surfaces into one. There are many designs.
But this is Minnesota, we can’t have brick-clad Woonerf here, can we?
Yes, yes we can. Once our roads were brick too. The vernacular design differs with the local Midwest environment, but the underlying logic remains the same.
In many places, the asphalt is simply laid over the brick. (How many, I don’t think anyone knows, as the records, if they remain, are on paper in boxes at an archive.) In some places they have been uncovered. Some examples from St. Paul are below. In some places, like some streets and alleys in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, they were never covered.
While snow and ice are harder to clear from brick than say asphalt, that too is a traffic calming measure. And there is no requirement that on residential streets snow be plowed to the surface. A compacted snow pack over residential streets will help preserve the pavement compared to scraping them with metal blades.
The merits of respective building materials can be argued, but eventually, about the time we have flying cars and real hoverboards, the more attractive brick will again dominate asphalt and concrete for residential and shopping streets. In the meantime, we can prepare for that day and try to resurface and uncover more and different road materials to help create better looking neighborhoods and living streets for people.
Grand Marais (French for Great Marsh) (map), on the North Shore of Lake Superior, has the benefit of being primarily a tourist town (the “coolest” small town in America, apparently). It’s nominal population of over 13oo belies its importance as a regional hub in the summer for tens of thousands of vacationing Minnesotans. The core of the town is only a few blocks, but it abuts Lake Superior, and so most of the downtown is within two blocks of the waterfront. There is a co-op grocery, a handful of restaurants, another handful of bars, two pharmacies (that collude on their operating hours and are incapable of actually filling prescriptions — you have been forewarned), some gas stations, as well as hotels and apartments. At the confluence of the Highway 61 running along Lake Superior and the Gunflint Trail (which connects circuitously to Seagull Lake), it is the most active place along Highway 61 between Two Harbors and Thunder Bay (and arguably, more active than the latter). It is also the County Seat of Cook County, Minnesota.
There are lots of people out and about on a Saturday afternoon. The core of downtown is south of Highway 61, and is quite walkable, with preference for pedestrian, but not much traffic between the Highway and the Lake except for people parking and unparking their cars. Sven and Ole’s local pizza (Minnesota-style, in case you were concerned about too much spice) is mobbed.
Frank Lloyd Wright is a renowned as a great architect. His city plans are less well-loved. In the 1930s he proposed Broadacre City, a new American landscape where everyone would have an acre of land, a car, and a gyrocopter. Fueling those cars requires gasoline. Gasoline requires Gas Stations. FLW, being an architect, had a gas station design. It was actually built in Cloquet, Minnesota (map). Needing fuel, and liking Wright, I took the opportunity to acquire some black gold at this classic design. Now a full-service Spur Station (on Main Street, but I can’t say much about the rest of the town, since we just passed through), it continues operation. A history of the station is here.
We didn’t exactly build Broadacre City (described in his book The Living City), though we didn’t exactly not build it either, aspects of it infuse post-War suburban America. But one element was exactly constructed. and remains attractive, as gas stations go, to this day. The dreams of what became the modern landscape evolved not simply from the minds of post-war developers, but had many pre-war antecedents, reflecting the agrarian/urban conflict dating back to at least Jefferson and Hamilton.