Chris and Melissa Bruntlett provide a thoughtful, jargon-free list of the barriers they see to designing better streets and places: The 6 biggest roadblocks to building complete streets in our communities, VanCity Buzz.
1. An unintended, but counterproductive focus on the commute to work
We agree that getting more people out of their cars and riding a bike to work is great. However, what about the dozens of other trips a person makes in a day? Most families will need to go to the store at some point throughout their week, be it for a full grocery shop or just to pick up a carton of milk. Not to mention meeting up with friends for dinner, taking kids to programs, or any other number of activities Vancouverites spend their time doing when they’re not sat behind a desk. And cargo bikes are making those multi-purpose, utility-based trips a much easier proposition.
…When we switch from a mindset of commuting, to one that places import on cycling as a means of transportation for other daily errands, it quickly becomes apparent that we are falling behind in encouraging the average person to ride to the nearest market or restaurant. Once we realize that, it becomes very easy to make the case for bike lanes on high streets – the places people actually go outside of office hours.
There’s been lots of coverage of how rapidly increasing housing supply can reduce rents as its starting to do now in Seattle (the housing construction boom is starting to pay off). A lot of this week’s housing coverage was centered on a report from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office research concluding that more private housing development benefits low-income Californians.
we offer additional evidence that facilitating more private housing development in the state’s coastal urban communities would help make housing more affordable for low–income Californians.
Joe Cortright. Urban myth busting: New rental housing and median-income households, City Observatory.
…in the United States, we have almost never built new market-rate housing for low-income households. New housing—rental and owner-occupied—overwhelmingly tends to get built for middle- and upper-income households. So how do affordable market-rate housing units get created? As new housing ages, it depreciates, and prices and rents decline, relative to newer houses. (At some point, usually after half a century or more, the process reverses, as surviving houses—which are often those of the highest quality—become increasingly historic, and then appreciate.)
What really matters is not whether new housing is created at a price point that low- and moderate-income households can afford, but rather, whether the overall housing supply increases enough that the existing housing stock can “filter down” to low and moderate income households. As we’ve written, that process depends on wealthier people moving into newer, more desirable homes. Where the construction of those homes is highly constrained, those wealthier households end up bidding up the price of older housing—preventing it from filtering down to lower income households and providing for more affordability.
As real estate expert Chris Leinberger (The Option of Urbanism) has long asserted, there is a shortage of walkable urban places. Here is a simple test of the thesis. Nick Fitzpatrick. High Walkability May Mean Higher Rent, Forbes Axiometrics.
Much of the demand in recent years have been for apartments in the urban core – the downtown and uptown areas known for their higher density and walkable access to retail and entertainment centers. These are typically the highest-priced properties in a metro area – creating a correlation between a submarket’s Walk Score and its effective rent level. Walk Score is a company that promotes walkable neighborhood and scores area through data and algorithms.
An Axiometrics study of two metropolitan areas – Dallas and the San Francisco Bay Area — showed that the submarkets with the highest-ranking Walk Score in the market tend to have the highest average rent per unit. Though correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, high Walk Scores seem to be in high demand.
“Creating a false sense of security” is traffic-engineeringeeze commonly used to reject proposed pedestrian crossings. Like many standard practices of the profession, this one has its genesis in the car-first era and may be based on dubious science. Angie Schmitt. Traffic engineers still rely on a flawed 1970s study to reject crosswalks , Greater Greater Washington.
…the phrase “false sense of security” is actually a cornerstone of American engineering guidance on pedestrian safety…you can trace this phrase—and the basis of some engineers’ reluctance to stripe crosswalks—to one very influential but seriously flawed study from the 1970s.
In 1972, a researcher named Bruce Herms conducted a study of crosswalk safety in San Diego. He found that intersections with marked crosswalks had higher injury rates than ones with unmarked crosswalks. He concluded that marked crosswalks should only be installed where they are “warranted” because they can give pedestrians a “false sense of security,” encouraging risky behavior.
But there were problems with the study. For one, Herms didn’t actually study why people made certain decisions at crosswalks—that “false sense of security” was just speculation on his part.
A few weeks back we added some links to the article finding that removing centreline striping slowed cars and provided a safer street environment. Here is a different Transport for London study looking at the effectiveness of adding SLOW road markings.
At all sites there were both slight increases and decreases in speeds after the introduction of SLOW markings. However statistical analysis of these has shown that they were all insignificant. There is thus no evidence that the SLOW markings had any impact on traffic speeds.
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