Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Roundabouts Needed in Hillcrest

There was another wreck at the corner of Kavanaugh & Van Buren last night.I don't know the details and I hope no one was hurt. It happens more than you might realize.
not the greatest picture but it was cold & rainy

I live so near the intersection of Kavanaugh & Van Buren that I frequently watch people try and navigate the awkward three-way from my porch. Three-way (intersections) are always awkward. That's particularly true for those with limited traffic signage.

For those traveling north toward Mount St. Mary's & up Kavanaugh you have to watch closely for left-hand turns entering Hillcrest. Those turning left have to watch carefully for northbound travelers who may quickly turn right into the commercial district, often without signalling. Southbound travelers have to watch closely for those exiting the Hillcrest commercial district back onto Van Buren & then to Markham of Fair Park.

It's a hot mess of indecision. I constantly see people incorrectly yield, speed through or change their minds midway. Add to that it's a heavily trafficked pedestrian crossing for neighborhood walkers, dog walkers and general bar/restaurant patrons who have to guess what drivers are going to do. It's a wonder there haven't been more accidents. But there's one thing that'd easily fix all of this confusion - a roundabout. Just take a look at the intersection and I suspect you'll see why:
Three-way Y Intersection with a yield option for those turning left onto Kavanaugh but you speed through on past Mt. Saint Mary's where there's frequent pedestrian traffic consisting both of students & neighborhood pedestrians. It's not as safe as it could or should be. 

Let's replace the three-way Y intersection with something like this

Adding a sign like this helps us confused Americans

Painting the lanes could be helpful as well. The below is a decent example though perhaps a few more arrows might be advantageous*

*I must acknowledge that there are two schools of thought on this - some think no paint provides improved maneuverability and some (including me) think the paint is necessary for Americans given our general fear & unfamiliarity with roundabouts.

I know Americans, particularly Southerners hate roundabouts (I can't imagine how we'd freak out over traffic circles - larger & meant for more vehicles at higher rates of speed) but they both work & have their place (some would say Conway;) ). The three-way Y intersection at Kavanaugh & Van Buren is the appropriate place.

The design of roundabouts forces drivers to slow as they approach them, then limits drivers' circulating and exit speed. It is difficult to pass through a well-designed roundabout above these design speeds. In addition to slow vehicle speeds, modern roundabouts require drivers to slow and select gaps in the circulating traffic before entering the roundabout at low speed. Roundabouts also increase intersection traffic capacity by 30 percent, with fewer delays, improve pedestrian safety and reduce pedestrian delays compared with signalized intersections.
Roundabouts reduce costs significantly through lower annual maintenance and life-cycle replacement costs, lower crash costs and reductions in delays and fuel use. They are particularly effective when used in a series. As a traffic circle is being installed on Fair Park near the Zoo & War Memorial, we have the beginnings of a series - or at least an echo or cap to usage in Little Rock neighborhoods. 
Traffic Circle on Fair Park, near War Memorial Stadium. Still under construction.

Roundabouts aren't much different than the spinning playground merry-go-round the roundaplay 
We've been teaching how to merge since grade school. 
While this is a heavier trafficked area it's a pretty good example of a more efficient intersection 
Beyond calming traffic, roundabouts can also add beauty to an area. Check out these options 
Roundabout. A more modest approach in size vs. the traffic circle. This seems more appropriate for Hillcrest
Roundabout, smaller than the traffic circle on Fair Park

A city we might look to as a comparison is Carmel, Indiana which replaced almost all of their traffic lights with roundabouts. This led to an estimated 40% decrease in all accidents and 90% in fatal ones, saving $180,000 because of lower maintenance cost and several thousands of gallons of gas per roundabout per year

Carmel recently introduced their 100th roundabout with fireworks, live music & a drone fly-over. Can you imagine that in Little Rock, much less Arkansas - Conway excepted here ;) ?

According to a recent CityLab article Americans will encounter 1,118 intersections before the encounter a roundabout. 1,118:1 despite their proven enhanced safety compared with multiple stop intersections. 

Finally, if you don't believe me, believe the Mythbusters

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hillcrest - The Logo, The Brand & the Brand Promise and time for a B.I.D.

I really enjoyed the recent Hillcrest Harvestfest. I’ve been many times but this was the best one in years. There were more vendors than ever, the streets were overflowing with people & vendors (businesses) lined the street. Who knew there were so many t-shirt vendors with an Arkansas focus?

Walking around Harvestfest one thing in particular struck me, one thing stood out – the logo of this wonderful neighborhood is mostly a lie. We're promoting Hillcrest via this beautiful historic streetlight, but these lights barely exists in Hillcrest. Once you notice this, it's striking and it's strangely ironic. Take a look:

There’s a difference between a brand, a logo and a brand promise.

A brand, simply put, is what people think when they hear your brand/organization’s name.

A logo is “a symbol or design adopted by an organization to identify its products…”. To use a timely example, the Olympic rings are the organizations icon(s) used on flags, merchandise & of late, tattooed on numerous athletes.

A brand promise is the expectations communicated by the brand itself. It’s an extension of the organization’s positioning. It can be spelled out or displayed more subtly in the brand experience. For example, if you see the Olympic rings, the item it’s placed upon or projected on should be related to the competition or in these modern times, ‘an official partner’ of the event itself.
Promises must be kept in order to maintain credibility. To extend my example, if a product isn’t an actual official partner of the Olympics or it turns out partnership doesn’t involve the expected underwriting or contribution to athletes or the games, then there is a failure and likely repercussions to the organization(s) involved.*

Here in our neighborhood of Hillcrest we use an image of a historic streetlight as the logo of both the neighborhood as well as a variety of organizations that represent our neighborhood (Hillcrest Residents Association, Hillcrest Merchant’s Association, etc.)

When you see a historic streetlight used as a logo, it’s not unreasonable to expect to see historic street lights aplenty when you visit said neighborhood for which said street light is used as a logo. Further, as embedded in that brand promise, you are likely to expect to see historic buildings, homes with character and a traditional neighborhood.

Here in Hillcrest there are just 18 historic or replica streetlights. Ten along Allsop Park, four in front of the Ice House Revival and four apparent replicas of the other 14 lights in front of Simmons Bank. These four lights are similar in design but shorter than the other 14 lights.

I don't have the patience to count the number of power poles along Kavanaugh Boulevard but I’d guess there’s well over 100.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at this pulled from Google Streetview
 The promise of the logo is undermined by the fact that the major concentration of historic streetlights that are covered up by excess foliage except during the latter part of the fall & winter when the leaves have fallen.  Essentially there are a good eight months when there is basically four-to-six lamps visible to the passerby.

What I’ve taken 300 words to tell you is – a historic streetlight as a logo for Hillcrest fails to deliver on a brand promise. Given it’s percentage in the mix between traditional cobra-headed lights hung on utility poles (once called ‘liberty trees’ during the time of rural electrification) we’re sending a largely false message to the visitor.

There is a certain irony in hanging a banner picturing a historic street light from a utility pole.
I can’t say for certain but I don’t think there’s a single historic streetlight on a neighborhood street in the area traditionally defined as Hillcrest. So, take that 100 number of the guessstimated amount of ‘liberty trees’** and give it an exponent.

If that’s the case (and I think it is) then we’re using what is likely providing less than 1% of our neighborhood lighting as our logo and our brand promise. That’s both a bit crazy and a lot dishonest, don’t you think?

On the positive side, it does speak to what we value, what we find beauty in and what we should strive for.

Now you may think this is just a castigation of our lovely neighborhood. That’s not how it’s meant. This blog entry is meant to call out an opportunity. It’s time to bury the power lines and replace the ‘liberty trees’ with replica streetlights. This aids the neighborhood in times of ice and other storms, helping prevent power outages. Burying the power lines enhances the beauty of the neighborhood as well as making room for larger trees and a variety of other benefits.

Obviously, there's a healthy expense involved. That would surely take a Business Improvement District (B.I.D.) or similar be introduced. That's overdue. Harvestfest and its success reminds me that the commercial area of Hillcrest should be so much more. It takes money, management a plan & leadership to truly bring commercial districts to fruition. Waiting for the market to make it happen means we'll continue to wait. The Downtown Partnership, SOMA, etc. these groups exist for a reason. They have an urban focus. I appreciate the work of the Hillcrest Merchants Association & the Residents' Association but that's not enough. We need more. A B.I.D. in its finest form could provide a revenue stream to at least start making these things happen. 

Development on the Helmich property, for example, is going to happen. Good things are happening for the old Afterthought. Just these two things could start a ball rolling for good things to keep happening. As neighbors, as citizens, as advocates, let's not let these things happen by chance and randomness. Let's have a plan or at a minimum let's start having the conversation.

*I’ll leave the debating of the minutia of the definitions to practitioners but I think you get my drift.
**It wasn’t until 1950 when 67% of Arkansas’s farms were electrified. That’s not so long ago.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Benches, Hillcrest & Small Upgrades That Can Lead to Big Things

On my walk through Hillcrest today I noticed the dilapidated benches that littered Kavanaugh. Their condition is both a sad disappointment and an opportunity. For the most part, the benches look to be the low-end type one can buy at Home Depot. IMG_0762.JPG
Here’s one. Could use a coat of paint, don’t you think? This is just one of many examples. They all pretty much look like this. Here’s one from Home Depot. Not quite the same but close
Now think about how much that corner would change if we replaced that sad looking seat with something like this?
color bench.jpg

And while this little park is lovely, it sure could use some color. Tan just fades.

This would be one step better

But what about something like this?

Or even this?

This is a parklet but think of how this would upgrade that little park-like spot out front of Kroger

I know, nothing’s free but what about a program like this one to fund such an undertaking? We can adopt a whole park but piecemealing such an undertaking might just make this undertaking doable.

Hillcrest is a great neighborhood but nothing is static. More than that, small, colorful upgrades can inspire more upgrades. It’s time for some upgrades.

1969 Highways Arkansas

1968 Arkansas Highways