Thinking About Alternative Traffic Flow

Thoughts and links by Ralph L. Vinciguerra
http://vinci.org/rlv
2005-03-08

An article by Tom McNichol in Wired magazine about the work of Hans Monderman provides a refreshing glimpse of alternative thinking on how to make downtown urban areas more pedestrian friendly. We're currently living in a pedestrian hostile design here in suburban and urban U.S. places, and as a member of my local town government, this kind of thinking is the key to revitalizing our downtown spaces.

The crux of the problem is how to manage the different needs. Person A thinks: "I'm passing through, and every stoplight takes up my time". Person B thinks: "I'm planning to shop in this area, and I want to cruise for a few minutes seeing the store fronts, and then easily park". Person C is walking in town as finds it hazadous to interact with the cars. These three individuals have divergent needs and the challenge in urban design is how to serve them all in some form.

Some quick thinking leads me to consider, if one has the freedom, to create several routes addressing the downtown. Route "through" traffic through without allowing it to tangle with the pedestrian areas. Offset a secondary path for the cruisers and street parking searchers. Finally, offer safe and well connected pedestrian paths, and in this inner tier, bias towards the pedestrians rather than the cars, as Monderman suggests. The street level shops should be highly visible to the inner two tiers as well. Of course, Monderman's approach assumes (I presume) that through traffic is dealt with outside of this planned low speed, pedestrian rich environments.

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