Last week I went to the Providence charette session about North Main Street, which is struggling to regain its economic prosperity and perhaps become a "destination" for people other than those who need Pepboys and a pawn shop. We talked about a walkable workforce and the possibility of housing for The Miriam Hospital's 2200 employees ~ how to get higher density, mixed use, residential presence, restaurants and retail into the area. Among the street's problems is that it is on an edge of a neighborhood rather than in the middle. Very few people live to the west of North Main ~ instead there are Route I-95, the train tracks, and the long border of North Burial Ground, which we hope to make much more parklike, on the model of Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.
Which brings me to an article in the September 2007 AARP Bulletin, Street Smart. It's worth reading to get a jolting perspective on what we too often take for granted: we are sure that streets are for cars, but walkers, bikers, and the disabled must use the streets, too. Note the videos that explain "Complete Streets." Let's rearrange our thinking to a Kirkland, Washington, point of view:
We consider walking and biking forms of transportation....
The "Complete Streets" movement aims to have autos, pedestrians, bike riders, and public transit users share the road safely. Only 52 ~ 52 of more than 30,000 [!] ~ U.S. cities and towns, six counties and 10 regional governments require that "roads are routinely designed or redesigned for all modes of travel." Well, that's not very many places in this great United States. Surely some of Rhode Island's towns and cities can be among them soon! You may note that Rhode Island is listed as one of the states with "complete street" plans, but I cannot find the term on our DOT website today. I think RI is probably noted because of the Greenways and bikeways folks, rather than extensive state government policy at this point, but I could be wrong! If you know about this, please add a comment!
I don't see the list of "ideas that work" for creating Complete Streets in the online article, so here they are:
- Resting places, benches
- Ramps to crosswalks
- Pedestrian-friendly medians
- Visible signs
- Recessed bus stops
- Raised crosswalks
- Advanced stop lines
- Bike lanes
- On-street parking
- Wide, raised sidewalks
I'll also repeat the Complete Streets links so you can easily find more information:
- communityexchange.aarp.org/rate.php (for rating your neighborhood's streets)
- www.walkscore.com (for how walkable your neighborhood is)
Walkscore is fun to use, but they need to keep working on the algorithm. I think my neighborhood in Providence is more walkable than Walkscore indicates. Both Melrose Street in Elmwood and of course Wayland Square (scores 86) do better. I tried the address of where I once lived in Connecticut, and it didn't score as low as I think it should. I know you really have to walk more than a mile to get even a loaf of bread, so people who live there almost always drive to do errands. It's on a tidal river and next to a wetland, and Walkscore was counting places on the other side of the river in its calculation!
A pedestrian was killed a couple of blocks from here recently. This is serious. And think of the weight we could lose and how healthy we'd be if we simply walked more!