Sunday, April 29, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
But, there’s a distinct visual change when you cross the viaduct in Downtown North Little Rock. You go from Argenta to Holt/Mid City. I suspect everyone just thinks you’re in “North Little Rock” until you hit Park Hill which has a distinct visual change due to its historic replica light poles & medians. And while I could go on & on about the things we need to do to make Park Hill a truly walkable neighborhood (A Third Place, anybody?)
What caught my eye recently was the inhospitably of this part of town to pedestrians.
It was this stop that caught my attention on my drive home from work.
People were getting off the bus, likely coming home from work just like me. They quickly moved to crossing the street while I was waiting at the light, traveling home, north to Park Hill. If they wanted to cross the street (which they did) at the bus stop, at the four-way traffic light, there was no crosswalk! Now this wasn’t the biggest deal given that it was a bright, lovely day outside. But I’ve traveled this road home from an evening in Argenta or the downtown Little Rock. When the sun goes down & it’s black as pitch outside, absent the over-illumination of Argenta, people crossing the street, particularly when they’re dressed in dark clothing, can make for some dangerous situations. God forbid something were to happen to a pedestrian, all I could think is that we’d have another Raquel Nelson situation on our hands.
You can see that attention is paid to signage & florescent colors have been used for signs in recent years. That wasn’t always the case as the sign in the first photo shows.
Additionally, we miss an opportunity to enhance safety at nearby North Little Rock High School.
As you can see above, some of the crosswalk itself is faded & nonexistent. Compare that with crosswalks in Argenta.
While the paint has faded a bit, you can still tell that there’s a change in color & design for the downtown crosswalks. As a driver, you can feel the difference in the stamped concrete that at one point was painted maroon. And there’s the rumble strips for ADA compliance. Now, this was done with TEA-21 money something like 13-14 years ago and that money hasn’t been as available since.
But shouldn’t we invest to make the areas by our schools more walkable? Sure, there’s a crossing guard out nearly every morning, but let’s give him or her the additional tools they need before they jump out in front of a 2,000 lb. car armed with nothing but a sign.
There’s quite a bit of development in the Mid-City/Holt area, largely done by the Argenta CDC. The area is home to strong housing stock and when the economy finally, fully turns around, I suspect this area will see a serious revitalization. It’s very close to downtown Little Rock & Argenta, gas is rising and North Little Rock is hemmed in geographically. This is a good place to invest early. So we should help that by showing that pedestrians matter here. Let’s upgrade the safety of the area & put into place ‘best practice’ for crosswalks, as we have in the Argenta area. And let’s invest in walkability for all of our schools. If we commit to updating just the crosswalks by our schools in order to again make schools an integrated part of our communities, we’d be off to a nice start.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
|Looking south over Dickey Stephens|
As you may have heard already, Mayor Stodola of LR and Mayor Hays of NLR recently pitched an alternative plan to AHTD. It involves building a new bridge to cross at Chester Street and then preserving and adaptively reusing the Broadway Bridge as an urban linear park. (a la the High Line). Makes sense to me. See some of the images from their presentation below and dream big...
* You won't see another historic road bridge upstream from Ozark until you go past the end of the McClellan-Kerr Navigation System at Muskogee, OK. Yes, the shipping channel does extend all the way to Tulsa, but it's in a tributary of the Arkansas above Muskogee.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
|Shaken up. And hurt.|
Cantrell Road is 6 lanes wide just to the east and west of this intersection. That's about 75 feet, curb to curb. The posted speed limit is 40 mph, but it seems that most drivers treat that as a minimum rather than a maximum- not because they're evil law-breaking speed demons, but because the road design itself encourages faster speeds.
The green space between the sidewalk and the Episcopal School is about 20 feet wide. That's over 100 feet of total width to play with (including the sidewalks), yet some how no one could find room for cyclists. It makes no sense. We need to shrink the space for cars here, carve out ample space for bikes and pedestrians, and beef up the public transit infrastructure. And we don't need to do it by spending $15 million on a cantilevered bridge around Dillard's. There is plenty of space in the Cantrell right-of-way for good, 21st century street design.
(image from the Google)
(and lest anyone think otherwise, the title of this post has absolutely nothing to do with the crash victim. "Stupid" refers to the people who decide and continue to think that intersections like this are a good idea.)
1. How Amazon got the urban campus right.
2. How Apple is getting it so wrong.
I hope to dive much deeper into the issue next week, but for now- take a gander at what the LR Tech Park Authority is showing off to illustrate their suburban vision. Those yellow buildings are parking decks. That red line is likely a perimeter fence to separate what's going on inside the development from the life outside. The grey things are surface parking lots.
|This couldn't be farther from where we need to be going as a city.|
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Friday, March 2, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I tried to recycle my newspaper when I finished reading it the morning of my outbound flight but absent a recycle option I left it lying around hoping some other soul would enjoy with wit & wisdom of Wally.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Reports are coming to & fro about gas prices rising. In fact, they’re the highest they’ve ever been in February. There are lots of reasons for this, of course. Production haults due to nuclear production and the like. There are attacks on the non motorized vehicle related portions of the transportation bill, the transportation enhancements portion. There’s an amendment that would put some of that money back and maintain local control, as well.
There’s also the serious nuts who will tell you that all of this is an attack on their freedom. That it’s a U.N. conspiracy to take away our freedom. This is sad. And small. There are good people who think that 2% of all the money we spend on auto-focused transportation could be used to enhance our trails and provide alternatives to the sprawl that we’ve built up over the last sixty or seventy years (some of us are a two generations away from family who traveled by horse). A few percentage points of these billions of of dollars that will enhance our collective ability to get off our butts and move. Not a bad idea given our 30% obesity rate, putting us in the top (bottom?) 10 in the country. Take a moment to look at that link & see how in 1991 we were under a 10% obesity rate in 1991 and where we are some 21 years later. You think that has anything to do with our addiction to cars and stationary lifestyle owing to poorly built neighborhoods, too often lacking sidewalks and building schools that kids don’t walk to any longer?
But, all of that aside I think the root of the attack on transportation enhancements isn’t just the nuttiness of the Agenda 21 zombies. Rather it’s that the machine needs more money to feed the beast. Highways have long been largely funded by a tax on gasoline that’s been stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon. It’s not news that the congress and the country’s are in no mood for a tax hike (those of us in Dogtown excluded) and that's probably a good thing. So, gas prices rise and people travel less. Fewer weekend trips, more strategic trips to the store, more use of public transportation (maybe not so much in Arkansas, but true nationwide) and lo and behold less gas tax collected.
Who suffers most? I submit to you it is rural America who suffers most. It’s simple logistics. They’re further away from goods and services. Often times rural communities are shrinking and thus have less revenue to keep up with infrastructure built for a greater population. And too often it’s these areas that are loudest in their protest against non-vehicle focused transportation. So in the end they’re the ones that will be hurt the most.
Gas isn’t going to stay cheap or more accurately moderately affordable forever. And as the price increases, we’re going to have to make some changes. We can’t start too soon. One way to start is to not spend 100% of our transportation funding roads.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Speaking of comments, mine are below. They may be a little over the top, but not nearly as over the top as rushing into a $50+ million project of questionable worth based on outdated assumptions in times of limited funds...
Do you feel there is a need for the proposed bridge replacement on Hwy. 70 (Broadway Street Bridge) over the Arkansas River?
Heck no! The current bridge should be maintained to extend its life. The proposed designs come nowhere close to replacing the historic and unique architectural form of today’s bridge, and there is no genuine need for additional capacity into and out of downtown Little Rock. People in other places who cherish the context and character that old structures like the Broadway bridge provide for their communities find ways of preserving them. Let’s do the same here.
Regarding capacity: there are 26 car/truck lanes connecting Little Rock to North Little Rock today (I-430, Broadway, Main St., I-30, and I-440). Brooklyn and Manhattan, with a combined population of 4,000,000, only have 25 connecting them to each other (Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, Brooklyn Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge, and Manhattan Bridge). To say that we do not have enough capacity across the Arkansas River and need to add lanes demonstrates a dangerously narrow view of our transportation system. Instead of locking everyone further into one very expensive mode of travel we should make investments that build choice and resiliency into the system.
What is your main concern for the proposed bridge replacement project? Please select one: __Cost, __Time to Completion, __Visual, _X_Other.
Little Rock is choking under an overabundance of parking lots and transportation facilities today that mainly serve to store tens of thousands of cars from 9:00-5:00 and move them into and out of the city at the highest speed possible. A stream of fast-moving cars equals neither value nor prosperity for the people and communities of this state, and adding capacity and speed, as all of the proposed bridge plans purport to do, will only worsen the problem. Reacting to today’s traffic problems by creating a bigger traffic problem tomorrow is not a sound long-term strategy.
Of the bridge types considered, what BRIDGE TYPE do you prefer? Why?
The one with the arch. The other two look too heavy, yet somehow incomplete at the same time.
Please provide comments on the various proposed roadway cross sections of the new bridge (additional travel lanes, shared use path for pedestrians and bicyclists, dedicated lane for La Harpe West, etc.).
-A physically-separated 16’ shared use path is a great start, though separating bike and pedestrian facilities from each other would be even better. If AHTD must keep 5 car lanes in the design, then I suggest shrinking them to 9’6” each, adding a 5’ sidewalk to the west side of the bridge, separating an 8’ foot sidewalk on the east side, and building a dedicated/separated two-way bike facility in the remaining ~10’ of space. There is no need for 11’ travel lanes on that bridge, given the surrounding street context.
-Putting seven traffic lanes at the north end of the bridge would be ludicrous. The intersection of N. Broadway and W. 3rd Street in North Little Rock at Dickey Stephens Park could be one of Arkansas’s gems of pedestrian-friendly, people-centered design. Today it fails in that role. Instead of improving and adding value to that place though, all of the prosed bridge replacement designs only carve out more room for cars from what is pedestrian space today. Any changes made there should improve the experience for people instead of sacrificing walkability in the name of higher throughput for cars. The Dickey Stephens surroundings could and should feel more Ebbets Field than Astrodome. Keep the tunnel under Broadway, but beef up the above-ground pedestrian experience too.
-The entire project should be put on a Mike-Huckabee-running-for-president-esque diet with fewer lanes for cars and more consideration for active transportation options. AHTD, the cities, Central Arkansas Transit, pedestrian and bike advocates, and the general public should hash out a vision together instead of one department unilaterally injecting its car-centric ideas into the process. Only after we figure out what we actually need should we start looking at designs.
Please provide comments on the pedestrian connections to/from the bridge on the north and south side of the river and the potential Riverfront Park impacts that may occur.
Bravo! The ramps down to the parks are a huge step in the right direction. As other projects have shown, anything that improves connections and perceived safety for people outside of cars will result in even more people choosing to walk and ride bikes. A few tweaks though would elevate the bike and pedestrian facility from a simple River Trail connection for the recreational users to an actual part of the transportation network. The current pedestrian experience at both ends of the bridge is dangerous and unwelcoming at best. Any changes to the Broadway Bridge should incorporate bold steps to connect cyclists and pedestrians into the cities at either end of the bridge. Huge, safe, inviting crossings across Broadway on both ends, Markham Street in Little Rock, and 3rd Street in NLR must be a fundamental part of the plan from the beginning instead of something that gets tacked on at the end. Start with that and then figure out where the cars can fit in. Just because AHTD’s car-centric policies of the last few decades have resulted in thousands of cars using that bridge every day now does not mean we should double down with those same policies as we move forward.
Please provide comments on the examples of architectural finishes shown in the bridge renderings (brick vs. stone/concrete treatments, open vs. closed railing, etc.)
I have no opinion other than that the materials used should respect/support the chosen design. Making design and material decisions independently seems like a bad idea. We’d end up with things like paper hammers and marble beach balls if we followed that model in other parts of life. That being said, it’s clear that concrete and COR-TEN are the building blocks of choice for AHTD these days. If that’s the route you go, then figure out a way to showcase those materials in a beautiful way without trying to make them look like something they aren’t.
Please provide any additional comments below.
The primary goal of public works projects like roads and bridges should be to create value for the people of this state by facilitating connectivity and exchange. As drawn, the current plans for the Broadway Bridge seem to have been conceived under the goal of “move as many cars as possible as quickly as possible.” Those goals may have been equivalent at some time in the past, but they definitely are not the same anymore. Massive roads designed to move lots of cars at a high rate of speed have the exact opposite effect from creating value, especially in dense urban areas such as Little Rock / North Little Rock. Connectivity and exchange happen best when people have genuine choice in how they move about in their daily activities; all of the proposed bridge replacements though will simply make the area more accommodating to cars at the expense of choice. We cannot keep trying to pave our way out of congestion. Additional capacity begets additional demand which simply leads to more and wider-spread congestion with people driving farther and farther.
The Broadway Bridge is a signature piece of Arkansas’s infrastructure that has hosted significant events in the state’s history. My hope first of all is that the stewards at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department do not destroy this treasure for anything but the sincerest of needs. Secondly, if they do decide that it must go, I hope they take the opportunity to begin transforming how the Department perceives the transportation system in Arkansas. Instead of throwing more and more money at a failed model that only leads to bigger problems in the future we need to invest in a resilient system that builds actual value by facilitating connectivity and exchange. The Broadway Bridge planning process so far has focused on the aesthetics of the bridge. While that issue is vitally important, the discussion should have started with meaningful dialogue about the purpose and vision of the bridge with regards to the region’s transportation infrastructure. Do we want to build a bridge that encourages ever more time-sucking, money-wasting, and community-draining sprawl or do we want to build something that brings people together, improves our health, and strengthens the state’s economy? I vote for the second path.
(taxpayer, car-owner, walker, cyclist, bus rider, voter.)
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Anyway, Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas's monthly meeting happens tonight at The Oyster Bar on Markham at 7:00. With Congressman Crawford's vote today to defeat an amendment to restore Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements to the transportation bill I'm sure we'll have some lively discussion.
See you there!
Monday, January 30, 2012
|from J Stuart Williamson.|
Mason Ellis and ArkansasOutside.com both have write-ups about the event if you'd like to read more.
And finally, additional pictures from Sunday's ride, in no particular order...
|From Kelsey Thornton|
|From Vanessa McKuin|
|From Vanessa McKuin|
|Main Street bridge, via Kelsey Thornton|
From Kelsey Thornton
|From Vanessa McKuin|
|From Vanessa McKuin|
|From Kelsey Thornton|
|From Kelsey Thornton|
|From Vanessa McKuin|
|Refreshments. From J Stuart Williamson|
Monday, January 23, 2012
Episode 1: Retrofitting Suburbia (preview all episodes here) from MPC on Vimeo.
Thinking about what the health community alone has built here in central Arkansas over the last few years reveals no shortage of opportunities for improved walkability. Yes, they got together and made the Medical Mile happen in the River Market area a while back, but the actual campuses of ACH, UAMS, St. Vincent, Baptist, and others represent the polar opposite of healthy living. Despite their urban locations the planners decided to develop all of the campuses under the outdated suburban model in which the vast majority of people working there have to drive. The car-centric, blank glass-walled form that dominates our hospitals discourages healthy lifestyles and runs completely counter to the amazing work happening inside. When the leaders of those institutions recognize the direct link between their missions and the physical design and layout of their campuses, not to mention the interface/connections to their surrounding neighborhoods, we will see a revolutionary transformation. Instead of a moat of parking lots 'buffering' a children's hospital from the neighborhood it sits in, we'll see a safe, people-centric place that encourage interaction and contributes to the revitalization of a neglected part of the city. And instead of a high-speed five lane road separating our state's medical school from its neighbors, we'll see an attractive human-scaled street that promotes walking. Obesity, diabetes, traffic crashes, and violence are some of the biggest health epidemics facing people today, and the way in which we've chosen to build our cities, towns, and the places within exacerbates (causes?) all of them. It's time to change.
And in the mean time, tune in to AETN on the 12th and 19th to see what the folks who created Designing Healthy Communities have to say about it.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Read this. Today. Right now: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2012/1/11/adding-insult-to-injury.html
First of all, replacing big wide roads and traffic lights with smaller roads and traffic circles to keep traffic moving often doesn't reduce capacity much, if at all. Secondly, our car-centric policies of the last half century have led to people making more trips by car than they used to. (surprise!) If we make University and Asher more people-centric and promote dense, safe, walkable development there, then a lot of people will choose to live there instead of out in the boonies. They'll be able to take care of more of their daily needs very close-by instead of having to drive back and forth all over creation. They'll still be able to drive anywhere they want, but they won't need to drive as much as they do now. Plus, that area is already decently served by CAT buses; a walkable, livable design will only make that service even more effective and efficient, further reducing people's reliance on driving.
Yes, right now University Avenue is an arterial road that lots of suburban commuters and shoppers and hospital visitors and students and concert goers and diners use, but let's not allow an arbitrary label to limit our future.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
|Dan Burden leading the walking audit. |
(photo from Bud Laumer)
|Not Walkable... yet.|
And here's a much longer version if you want to learn more. See the full version here, and a preview below:
Dan Burden: Building Livable, Walkable Communities from Commonwealth Club on FORA.tv
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Here's the UALR page on the event with contact info for reserving a free spot. Parking should be a breeze if you drive since the students are still away.
Here's a great paper from IBM (I know- weird, right? IBM? Trust me though, it's good.) that outlines the idea of organizing all city government decisions and functions around neighborhoods instead of the various departmental silos we have now. The fundamental goal for city government under the new paradigm is improving people's quality of life at the neighborhood level. And, the easiest way to gauge progress toward that goal is by looking at property values. When quality of life improves in a place, more people will want to live there, and (thanks to the magic of supply and demand) property values there go up. Plus, as a significant added benefit, when property values go up, revenue for the city goes up too. Everybody wins. In a way, the city begins to look at itself as a revenue-generating entity rather than just assuming that revenue is just something that happens independently of civic decisions.
On one level we all identify with the city or town we live in, but on a much more fundamental level we identify with our neighborhoods. While someone getting shot at 12th and Woodrow impacts everyone in Little Rock to some degree, I'd venture to say that those of us in the Central High and Stephens neighborhoods feel it a lot more than someone living where Deauville Drive, Deauville Circle, Deauville Boulevard, and Deauville Place all come together. On a more positive note, a new sidewalk / fire station / school / park / etc. typically affects the quality of life of the people who live nearby more than it does for someone who lives on the other side of town.
Right now in Little Rock, as in most cities, there's a pot of money each year that gets allocated between Police, Streets, Parks and Rec, Fire, Code Enforcement, Transit, Housing, Courts, etc. and then each of those departments has to decide how best to spend its own money citywide. What Big Blue and others propose is to re-imagine that formula. Divvy the money up based on neighborhoods, and then allow the decision-making process to operate on that more local, personal level. Would it be better for a particular neighborhood to have more librarians or police officers? Do we need sidewalks or another fire truck? Should we add frequency to a bus route or widen a street? Etc. The same things will still happen as today, but the difference is that it'll be easier to make local decisions that affect multiple departments instead of having those departments act somewhat independently as they do now.
That' a simplified overview filtered through my pre-coffee mind, so do read the IBM paper for a much more complete version.