By Dom Nozzi
December 30, 2008
If we are talking about the creation (or restoration and revival) of a town center, the litmus test for which strategies to use must consider whether the strategy will create a low-speed “park once” environment. For a healthy town center, the pedestrian must be the design imperative.
A common and effective way to create such an environment is with on-street parking. On-street parking, by itself, is not necessarily sufficient in creating a better environment for retail, bicyclists or pedestrians. But on-street parking is one of the most beneficial tactics that can be leveraged in an existing or up-and-coming low-speed town center. On-street parking should therefore be included whenever
Too commonly, a place that a community seeks to transform into a walkable town center is fronted by a six-lane corridor. But such a “stroad” design (as Charles Marohn calls a street that is designed poorly for both urbanism and suburbanism) is anything but low-speed or park once, typically. Such a “drive-through” design, to be transformed into a healthy town center, must do what it can to ratchet down speeds 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. Even though bike lanes ARE usually a good idea in other settings.
In other words, street design must be context-sensitive. We need to be careful not to suboptimize certain forms of travel (such as bicycling) in inappropriate locations.