Wednesday, October 01 2014 @ 05:39 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
How do we measure a successful street?
Well, traditionally we’ve allowed traffic engineers, focused on moving cars, to create that measure. They’ve developed a grading system for streets called “Level of Service” or LOS.
But here’s the problem. If you look at a LOS map of many of the downtowns and neighborhoods that we love the best you’ll see almost nothing but level of service “D” and “F”. In other words, by the measure of moving cars our streets are failing or nearly failing. And if you ranked streets by friendliness to bicyclists and pedestrians the maps would look very different.
At the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference in Pittsburgh last week I heard a compelling argument to forget about LOS in most urban environments altogether. After all, a city is not a place for cars to move efficiently. And if you make it that you’ve almost certainly lost all the things that make your city a good place to be. You’ve destroyed your city in order to save it.
We need to start thinking of cities as something more than impediments to the smooth movement of traffic. MIT engineer Jeff Rosenblum presented a study of one street in Cambridge, which was treated with a road diet – fewer lanes, broader sidewalks, bump-outs at pedestrian crossings, wider terraces. That street moved 20,000 cars a day before this treatment. And afterwards? It still moves 20,000 vehicles a day. By restricting turns and timing stop and go lights the street was made more efficient for cars just as it was made more welcoming for biking, walking, hanging out and just living.