By Dom Nozzi
On-street parking, by itself, is not necessarily sufficient in creating a better environment for retail, bicyclists or pedestrians. On-street parking is one of the most beneficial tactics, in a toolbox of tactics, that can be leveraged in an existing or up-and-coming low-speed town center.
On-street parking should therefore be included whenever possible.
If we are talking about the creation (or restoration and revival) of a town center, the litmus test for appropriate strategies must be a question about whether the strategy will create a low-speed “park once” environment. With such a vision, the pedestrian (not bicyclists or transit users or motorists) must be the design imperative.
Should the proposed town center be four or more lanes in size, the street will nearly always be anything but a low-speed, park once environment well-suited for pedestrians. Such a “drive-through” design, to be transformed into a healthy town center, must be ratcheted down in its speed and the width of the street. On-street parking and travel lane removal tend to be the most effective ways to do that.
Note that when town centers are designed well, bike lanes can be incompatible with a low-speed walkable town center design.
In other words, street design must be context-sensitive. We need to be careful not to suboptimize certain forms of travel in inappropriate locations.
A town center without on-street parking is ultimately to the detriment of the bicycling community, as the flight of commercial activity from this area (induced by such factors as an absence of on-street parking) will lead to longer bike rides to commercial areas.
For bicyclists and pedestrians, another downside associated with a lack of on-street parking in a town center is the increased speed and increased inattentiveness of motorists in the corridor.
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com
My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
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