Sunday, November 08, 2015

Speck casually advises Cincy: "None require widening a road; it’s simply a matter of restriping them."

Let's live dangerously and reprint the entire article (below).

It's too good to miss, and hits close to the target. As you're reading, think about New Albany, our situation here, and the personages in our town taking stances similar (and different) to these. Note that by campaign's end, Mayor Jeff Gahan finally had something to say in response to the News and Tribune's direct question:

Except that yet again, he said nothing. To the bitter end, evasive gobbledygook. But now we live with it, for the next four years.

Happy Sunday reading!


Bike lanes, two-way streets, parallel parking should be part of Cincinnati road overhaul, urban designer says, by Chris Wetterich (Cincinnati Business Courier)

When nationally known urban planner and designer Jeff Speck heard about Cincinnati’s plan to spend $91 million over the next six years to repair and replace the city’s streets and fleet, he saw an opportunity.

Speck, who wrote the book, “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time," was in town last week to keynote the Cincinnati Preservation Association’s Fall Forum lecture. The association holds the lecture to show it’s not just about saving old, historic buildings but about connecting them to the city’s core, as well.

I had coffee with Speck; Cincinnati’s economic development director, Oscar Bedolla; city economic development official Phillip Denning; Cincinnati Preservation Association executive director Paul Muller and others last week at the Contemporary Arts Center’s café.

Some things Speck noticed: one-way streets throughout downtown and the lack of bike facilities – bike lanes, protected bikeways like the one along Central Parkway and shared use sidewalks wide enough to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists.

He recommended four things to make Cincinnati more walkable when the city starts to repave its roads. None require widening a road; it’s simply a matter of restriping them, Speck said:

  • Make as many lanes no wider than 10 feet
  • Convert one-way streets to two-way streets
  • Have parallel parking on every curb possible
  • Add an array of biking infrastructure

The first two slow down traffic and improve safety for both motorists and pedestrians. The third sets up a barrier between cars and pedestrians and bicyclists. The fourth makes each street complete for those in a car, on foot and on a bicycle.

Two-way streets are a way to spur economic development, Speck said.

“People who have lived through that (the conversion of two-way streets to one-way) in other communities, they all say the same thing: The barber went away and this went away and that went away. And it’s no coincidence,” Speck said. “When you go two-way, they go back.

“Often these great historic neighborhoods in which there is a mix of uses, there are buildings framing the street with friendly faces, which is comfortable and interesting – all they’re missing is the proper street geometry to feel safe.”

Mayor John Cranley remains a staunch opponent of dedicated bicycle lanes on roadways.

“I don’t believe that we should hurt bike riders for the benefit of cars or hurt cars for the benefit of bikes,” Cranley said at a recent Issue 22 forum, describing his views on bike lanes. “We all know it’s safer to have dedicated bike trails and walking trails and hiking trails.”

Speck dismissed the argument that “sharrows,” or marks on roads indicating that bicyclists can use the road, are enough. Mixing bikes and cars together only works when traffic is slow enough, he said.

“Sharrows do not count. It’s invitation to kill yourself, especially on some of the streets I’ve driven on in this town,” Speck said, later explaining that he was driven along Spring Grove Avenue, one of the flattest routes in the city between downtown and Uptown, which has the markings. “There are other streets out there which are six-laners in which the outer lanes have the sharrow markings. And that’s ridiculous.”

Some streets and roads can remain car-centered and unbikeable, Speck said.

“You don’t need to have bikes everywhere, you just need a way for them to go around the corner and get to their destination,” Speck said.

Speck even mentioned an infamous photo circulated locally on social media in which someone that either was Cranley or had a striking resemblance to him is seen riding a Red Bike on Vine Street’s sidewalk.

“In a proper bike network, there are some places where it’s OK to ride on the sidewalk,” Speck said.

“But if your outlook is the bicyclists should ride on the sidewalk, you will never generate a cycling population. The cities that want to bring millennials … the (bike) facilities are there.”

City Manager Harry Black said Speck’s idea “makes a lot of good sense,” but first will require more money than is allocated to the capital acceleration plan passed by council, a lot of community input and engineering work.

“We’re talking about getting in front of the deterioration curve,” Black said of the current plan. “What he’s talking about would be ‘nice to have’ stuff. We’re talking about stuff that must be done today.”

Black does not agree that it is simply a matter of changing the striping on city streets once they are repaved.

Speck’s plan “presupposes that the street is wide enough to accommodate all that stuff. I think it’s a simplistic viewpoint. Not to mention the impact on surrounding streets. It has to be a part of a larger design and community input process," Black said.

“He’s a planner. He’s paid for ideas. He’s not responsible for getting it built.”

Speck isn’t the first to make such a suggestion. In June, Over-the-Rhine resident and activist Margy Waller wrote a column in the Cincinnati Enquirer suggesting the city use the opportunity of new money being available for roads to implement the city’s bicycle transportation plan and its award-winning Plan Cincinnati.

The bicycle transportation plan outlines the type of network Speck suggests the city build.
“It's easy and very cheap to create the lanes while repairing our roads,” Waller wrote.

Black said he has not yet read the bicycle transportation plan nor is it on his immediate agenda.

“It’s not on my drawing board. My priority right now is to take care of the basics,” Black said. “That’s a discussion for other segments of the city to engage in.”

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