Monday, November 5, 2007

Narrow Streets, Bikes, and Sidewalks

News & Record reader Troyce Hood worries about GDOT's new narrower standard width for residential streets

Did the City Council ever consider leaving the width as is and marking off designated bike lanes? How is this city ever going to be considered bicycle-friendly if it starts making the streets less wide? I have to believe that, as in most cases, it all comes down to dollars and not common sense.

While you're at it, did anyone ask fire and police how they like the idea of slimmer roads in residential neighborhoods? It must be exciting to try to get those big hook-and-ladder/pump trucks down slimmer streets for emergencies.

Perhaps the title of the article should have been, "Greensboro is slimming down streets while adding pounds to its residents."
GDOT gave a couple of presentations to the LDO committee on the new standards, and of course they did due diligence on the fire and police issue -- 26 feet is plenty wide enough for emergency access.

But one of the main reasons for narrowing the standard width was to encourage developers, who previously had been required to pay for 30' wide streets, to use some of that concrete to build sidewalks. Not that they are actually required to build sidewalks on both sides of the street, but "concrete ain't free," as the developers like to say, and I'm for anything that will encourage them to build in good pedestrian connectivity.

Since on-street parking (at least on one side) is usually the norm on residential streets, GDOT didn't see any advantage in keeping the streets wide and striping in bike lanes, and I agree. We're not talking about collector streets or thoroughfares here. As a bike commuter, I like riding the narrow, old streets of Fisher Park and College Hill, and I don't think bike lanes would improve their ridability.

The Willow Oaks development is one of the first to use the new 26' standard, and I think it's very walkable and bike-ridable. Here's a photo I took a while back of that streetscape:

2 comments:

Billy Jones said...

I don't object to the narrower streets but would like to see residental speed limits lowered to 25 mph.

Erik said...

One of the best ways to control or reduce speeding through residential neighborhoods IS to narrow the streets. On-street parking and streetside trees also help, for basically the same reason; they make the roadway APPEAR narrower, which makes people drive slower. Actually 26' is still a little wider than traditional city streets in many older cities; architect-planner Andres Duany recommends residential streets in the range of 20-24' wide. (See the section "Safe Streets versus Dangerous Streets" in Chapter 4 of the book SUBURBAN NATION.)