Tag Archives: street design

Suggestions for Running a Smooth, Productive Public Workshop Centering on Street Redesign

By Dom Nozzi

March 31, 2017

A staff member from a college town transportation department learned that I would not be able to attend the first meeting of a citizen workshop pertaining to the redesign of a street on the eastern periphery of the urbanized portion of the town.

Because I was serving on the city transportation advisory board, the staff person thought it would be helpful for me to suggest ways the first meeting could run more smoothly and productively.

The following is my response.

In my 31 years of experience at public workshops as both a citizen and a professional, the two most important lessons I have learned in getting a group to operate smoothly and productively is that the process must start by having a skilled, non-threatening professional expert provide a summary of design principles.

That summary should describe what is known from research about the impacts and effectiveness of various design treatments, what might work locally, and lessons learned from other communities – in other words, the typical way to start a design charrette.

Without this upfront education, group members tend to be coming from vastly different perspectives and lack of knowledge that significantly increases the likelihood that differences of opinion cannot be resolved (and that there will be so much frustration about not being on the same page that hostility arises). A lack of knowledge on the part of some/all of the group members also amplifies an enormous problem in public meetings: The LESS someone knows about a topic, the MORE CERTAIN they are about the thought that they are right.

Two tools that are very helpful in providing quick, informed awareness, and meaningful input, for a non-professional group: (1) maximize the use of easy-to-understand graphics that visually show conditions, issues, and design principles (such graphics must be very June8workshop-1simple and minimize the amount of irrelevant engineering clutter that distracts from the important issues that need to be conveyed). (2) Use real-time visual preference (and other) surveys to assess group preferences during the meeting. The use of clickers to do real-time surveys of a group was extremely effective and useful at the traffic mitigation workshop the City sponsored a few weeks ago by the City.

I would also note, with regard to that traffic mitigation meeting, that I found it very useful to clearly point out at the beginning of the meeting that people need to LISTEN to others and be RESPECTFUL of others.

Overall, it is essential that the group start off with a clear understanding of the overall land use and transportation objectives for the corridor. If the objective is to, say, create another strip commercial corridor, the street to be redesigned at the workshop will need to have a higher speed design that makes free-flowing car traffic the imperative. If, on the other hand, the objective is to support safe, walkable, smaller scale retail, office and residential, the street under analysis will need to have a slower speed design that supports transportation choice and making the pedestrian the design imperative.

The staff person also asked me to imagine that, at the end of the day, I didn’t get everything I wanted for the street being analyzed, but I found myself really pleased with the process.  I was, in other words, able to say that it was both credible and meaningful.  What would have happened, this staff person asked?

I told her that given the high level of contentious hostility and ridiculing we were seeing at public meetings in this town, it would be essential that meetings are designed to make it safe for all viewpoints to be expressed – even those viewpoints that are relatively controversial – and that even those who are relatively timid in expressing their views feel comfortable in expressing their views. The use of the real-time clicker surveys is a good way to do that, as are a few other methods (such as allowing people to submit written ideas).

For me to feel as if the meeting was credible and meaningful, it is also essential that the group be provided with upfront education as I mentioned above. Without that, the group is likely to be little more than an uninformed, emotional mob with axes to grind. As a result, too many expressed citizen objectives end up being a random free-for-all of personal, parochial bias that ignores community objectives.

Another important way for me to feel that the meeting was meaningful comes from a feeling that the group has fully expressed their hopes and dreams (their visions). Too often in public workshops these days, I have a strong sense that attendees are either overly bashful about expressing their visions, or are not even aware that certain visions they may have are even feasible. This bashfulness or lack of awareness is another important reason why upfront education from a professional design expert is important, as doing so makes it much more likely that attendees will be less bashful or more aware of the full range of possible visions.

 

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The Ingredients of a Quality Street in a Town Center

 

By Dom Nozzi

June 17, 2002

Many people put “nature” at the top of their list of what makes for a great street or neighborhood or town center.

Trees and wetlands are essential. They are extremely important. They are critical. In fact, in the suburban and rural/preserve portion of the urban-to-rural transect, trees and wetlands are near the top of the priority list.

However, they are not sufficient. And in a town center, they are nowhere near the top of the list of important ingredients in creating a healthy place.

In a walkable urban neighborhood center or town center of a transect, I would create the following priority list for design elements of a street.meatmarket

Dom’s Vibrant Street Casserole (serves…everyone)

  1. Building facades abuts or are very, very close to the streetside sidewalk, with entrances on the sidewalk.
  2. Relatively high residential densities on the street or otherwise near the street.
  3. A mix of residential and non-residential development on the street.
  4. On-street parking.
  5. Short blocks, modest turn radii, no more than 3 lanes of 2-way street (3rd lane is landscaped median with pocket turn lanes), prominent crosswalk.
  6. Verticality — buildings are at least 2 stories high.
  7. Aligned building facades.
  8. Modest street light and traffic signal height.
  9. Alley.
  10. Narrow lot width.
  11. Transparency on building facade — adequate windows at eye level — implicit here is an absence of excessive blank wall horizontally.
  12. Shading street trees — limbed up, formally aligned and spaced so as to avoid blocking the view of at least the first floor building facades.
  13. Streetscaping — street furniture, etc.
  14. Ample sidewalk width — wide enough for sidewalk cafes, couples to comfortably walk side-by-side, street furniture.
  15. Modest sign size.

 

 

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Essential Ingredients for a Walkable, Compact Town Center

 

By Dom Nozzi

December 20, 2013

I attended a joint citizen board meeting regarding “Sustainable Streets and Centers” in Boulder, Colorado. Here are my thoughts about necessary strategies.

Assumptions

  • Boulder has adopted a clear vision for one or more newly emerging walkable, compact centers in locations such as East Arapahoe Road, Colorado Street, and East Boulder, and intends to use effective tactics to induce the creation and sustainability of such centers.
  • People that desire to live in walkable, compact living arrangements seek a setting that is conducive to such a lifestyle. That setting features low-speed, narrow and human-scaled streets and intersections, very short walking distances to most destinations, buildings pulled up to the sidewalk to create enclosure, and a vibrant experience (in contrast to deadening expanses of parking and large building setbacks). The market for higher density housing will be very weak and unsustainable if such a walkable setting is not provided.
  • 15-minute neighborhoods are an important Boulder objective, which will require the creation of a relatively large number of centers.
  • The objective for centers is a drive to rather than drive through experience, a park-once setting, and a design that makes the pedestrian the design imperative.

General comments

First, strive to use words that resonate and are understandable to non-professional Boulder citizens. Terms such as “multi-way” or “activity center” or “alternate modes” or “corridor” are confusing, uninspiring, and negative. Second, when visioning or seeking comments from citizens, it is important that citizen comments be guided and informed by skilled design professionals (such as Dover-Kohl) who are skilled in presenting information in an understandable, inspiring way (particularly through use of quality graphics). Third, existing housing, employment, or land use patterns should not necessarily dictate visions if such patterns conflict with Boulder objectives. Fourth, the needs or convenience of regional commuters should not trump the low-speed, vibrancy, pedestrian scaled needs of Boulder’s centers.

Toolbox of Strategies that are Essential in Creating a Walkable, Compact Center

(somewhat different toolboxes are needed for other lifestyle zones – “transect zones” – in Boulder)

Land Development Regulations:

  • Motor vehicle parking is behind buildings.
  • Shorter blocks via cross-access pedestrian ways between buildings.
  • Mixed-use zoning to reduce walking/biking distance, and increase 24-hour vibrancy and safety.
  • Relatively high residential densities and commercial intensities.IMG_3045
  • Remove any regulatory barriers to infilling existing parking with buildings.
  • Do not allow gas stations at intersections.
  • Convert parking minimums to parking maximums. Require that the price of parking be unbundled. Increase allowable shared use and leased parking opportunities.
  • Relatively modest building setbacks. At intersections, a sense of place is achieved by requiring buildings to abut the back of sidewalks.
  • Exemption from landscaping requirements.
  • Relatively small minimum lot sizes.
  • Relatively small signs required by the sign ordinance (to help signal a low-speed, pedestrian scaled setting).
  • Proactively overlay a street grid with small block sizes before development is proposed.
  • Do not allow fences to cut off non-street access to adjacent parcels. Fences used should not exceed three or four feet in height along a sidewalk.
  • Emphasize multi-family housing rather than single-family housing in centers and along major streets.
  • Consider requiring at buildings at least two-stories in height for more of a sense of place, a sense of enclosure, mixed use opportunities, and better adaptability to change over time.

Infrastructure

  • Shorter street blocks (200 to 500 feet max).
  • When streets passing through the proposed center are 4 lanes or more in size, they need to be necked down (road dieted) to no more than 3 lanes.
  • Intersections must be kept relatively small in size so that they are pedestrian-scaled. No more than one turn lane in a given direction, relatively narrow travel lanes, and small turning radii.
  • Continuous left turn lanes are to be discouraged. Raised medians with turn pockets are to be encouraged.
  • Raised crosswalks when feasible and appropriate.
  • Street (including lane width) and turning radii dimensions are small and slow-speed.
  • Street lights should be pedestrian-scaled so that light bulbs are no more than 14 feet in height. Taller lights create a highway ambiance and induce higher car speeds.
  • Bus bays are inappropriate in a compact, walkable center due to loss of pedestrian scale and increased pedestrian crossing distance.
  • Sidewalks have straight, rectilinear trajectories rather than curvilinear, suburban trajectories. Curvilinear trajectories, by adding unnecessary distances to walking, are annoying and patronizing to pedestrians. They are mainly benefiting motorists, who obtain a more pleasing view as they drive along a street with curving sidewalks. They also increase the likelihood of dirt cowpaths being formed by pedestrians seeking the shortest route.
  • On-street parking is allowed and priced.
  • Consider visually prominent gateway features at the entrances to centers to clearly signal to motorists that they are entering a low-speed, walkable setting that requires attentiveness.

 

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Filed under Sprawl, Suburbia, Transportation, Urban Design, Walking

The Many Transportation Reforms Needed in Boulder, Colorado

By Dom Nozzi

 If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places. – Fred Kent

Boulder, Colorado is rightly considered throughout America to be a model for instituting facilities and programs that create sustainable transportation choices that promote equity and quality of life. However, it is important to recognize that Boulder is far from being able to “rest on its laurels,” as too many in Boulder seem ready to do. Even in Boulder, there are a large number of transportation reforms that are essential if Boulder is to have a chance to achieve important transportation and quality of life objectives.aerial-view-of-boulder-b

To start this paper, here is a list of objectives that Boulder (like most other communities) seeks to achieve:

Objectives

  • Reduce carbon/greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reduce SOV and other gasoline-powered transportation.
  • Increase the proportion of bicycle, pedestrian and transit trips.
  • Increase the amount of affordable housing.
  • Promote compact, walkable urban design in town centers.
  • Increase the proportion of transportation revenue that is user fee based.
  • Promote slower and attentive car traffic.
  • Promote quality of life via more healthy residential and commercial areas.

This paper offers my suggestions for needed reforms to effectively achieve these objectives. In general, to be transformative (and to avoid needing to increase needed transportation funding), recognize that it is not about providing new transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It is about taking away space and subsidies and speed for the car, by shrinking size of roads and parking, and increasing the cost of driving.

Note that car transportation is a zero-sum game. Increasing the ease of car travel, or reducing the cost of car travel, inevitably makes bicycling, walking and transit use more dangerous, less pleasant, and less practical. This becomes a downwardly spiraling vicious cycle, as easing car travel ends up inducing a growing number of bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users to drive cars more often. And that growing number of motorists then increase political pressure to ease car travel EVEN MORE. And so on…

It is essential to recognize the negative feedback loop of the travel time budget, the triple convergence, and induced trips. For example, designing streets to speed car travel results in increased community dispersal because travelers have an internal “travel time budget” that compels them to allocate travel time to their daily routine. If car speeds increase due to enabling street design, commuters respond by living further away from their destinations, because higher speed streets enable them to remain within their travel time budget.

The “triple convergence” informs us that whenever we widen a road, we inevitably induce three motorist behavior changes that result in a quick return to congested road conditions: Motorists drive more often at rush hour, they drive more often by car, and they drive more often on the newly-widened street. The widening of a road (or intersection) thereby “induces” new car trips that would have never occurred had Boulder not spent large sums of public dollars to widen a road or intersection.

Why Driving a Car is Rational

Even in Boulder, the vast majority of citizens find that car travel is the most rational way to drive. As an aside, this is why adding new bike lanes, more frequent bus service, or adding new sidewalks are generally not effective in significantly reducing car use.

In Boulder, the following factors make car travel quite rational.

  • Protection/security from “bad guys.”
  • Comfort (temperature control, protection from weather, music, comfy seat, etc.).
  • Low physical exertion.
  • Status/ego.
  • Cargo carrying capacity.
  • Ability to carry lots of passengers.
  • Ability to travel long distances — particularly at times of your choosing, rather than based on a bus schedule.
  • Free parking for nearly all of your trips.
  • Untolled roads.

Boulder needs to strive to make bicycling, walking, and transit use more advantageous than car travel, and addressing the above factors (so that car travel is less advantageous in these categories) is an important way to start doing that.

Boulder’s transportation staff is well-educated about the following recommended reforms. Their infrequent instances of suggesting such reforms is therefore not due to their being unaware of such tactics. Staff would make such recommendations regularly if or when their supervisors and elected officials gave them PERMISSION to make such recommendations.

Needed Boulder Transportation Reforms

Parking

  • Eliminate any code barriers to infilling on off-street parking lots. Off-street parking is an extremely inefficient way to use the extremely costly land in Boulder – particularly in the town center, where no off-street parking should be allowed at all.
  • Eliminate minimum parking requirements and consider converting them to maximum parking requirements (particularly in the town center). In addition to converting minimum parking to maximum parking, allow increased shared parking, require the unbundling of the price of housing from the price of the associated parking, and offer employees a parking cash-out option. Regulations currently require too much off-street parking.
  • Only allow Inverted-U bike parking (or minor variations), and specify required spacing as well as required height. Regulations currently allow highly undesirable bike parking designs. The inverted-U design is about the only acceptable bike parking design. We don’t allow several car parking designs. Why do we allow it for bike parking?
  • Conduct an on-going trend analysis of the quantity of free parking – particularly in the town center. This measure is an excellent proxy for quality of life changes over time. Quality of life is inversely related to the quantity of free parking. Parking quantity changes correlate with several city objectives in a way that “green” cars/fuel does not:
    • Less noise pollution
    • Less sprawl
    • Less heat island effect
    • Less flooding and stormwater runoff
    • More affordable housing
    • More affordable transportation budget
    • More healthy population
    • More healthy retail & residential
    • Less injuries and deaths due to crashes
  • Hire a Shoup-based parking consultant to conduct a parking study for Boulder.
  • Boulder should conduct an on-going inventory of how many regional commuters park in a free parking space. This can inform the City about how aggressively to push for parking cash-out, and whether the region will be able to shift regional commuters to transit (too much free parking for such commuters makes such a shift highly unlikely).
  • Off-street parking should not be allowed to front streets – particularly in the town center. Exceptions should be only allowed on wide, high-speed streets, where conditions are too inhospitable to abut the street with a building entrance.
  • Parking in Boulder should be more comprehensively priced (market-based pricing).
  • The price of free parking should be unbundled from the price of housing so that those with fewer or no need for car parking can have more affordable housing (and reduce the incentive for owning cars). Reports providing details about unbundling the price of parking can be found here, here, and here.
  • Each year, the total percentage of total free, off-street parking converted to priced parking shall be increased.
  • Incentivize infill construction on off-street parking lots by, for example, exempting the property from FAR or density limits, and reforming property taxation.
  • Conduct an inventory of on-street and off-street parking in the Boulder town center on an annual basis. Each year, the amount of town center off-street parking shall be reduced to a quantity lower than the prior year. Essays I wrote about town center parking can be found here, here, and here.
  • Parking shall be more efficiently provided by generously allowing the sharing of parking, fee-in-lieu parking, leased parking (public ownership of parking). An essay I wrote about providing more efficient parking can be found here.
  • Work with CU to reduce Single-Occupant Vehicle travel by faculty, staff, students, in part by increasing the cost of campus parking, and reducing the number of on-campus parking spaces.

Roads and Streets

  • Convert one-way streets back to two-way in Boulder town center. Several cities throughout the nation are converting one-way streets in their town center back to their original two-way operation. Why? One way streets…
    • Increase speeding
    • Increase inattentive driving
    • Increase motorist impatience
    • Make street less conducive to residential & retail, as well as bicycling and walking
    • Newcomers more likely to get lost
    • Studies show they increase motorist travel distances, which increases GHG emissions & fuel consumption
    • Make dangerous wrong-way travel more likely.

An essay I wrote about the impacts of one-way streets can be found here.

  • Install more roundabouts and traffic circles to slow down traffic, make motorists more attentive, improve residential quality of life, and reduce intersection crashes.
  • Install raised, landscaped medians where continuous left-turn lanes are found in the Boulder town center, such as Pearl Street, Broadway (Meadow to US 36), and Arapahoe Ave (turn pockets/raised medians). Doing this will dramatically improve pedestrian safety and comfort, reduce excessive car speeds, reduce inattentive driving, create a more human scale on Boulder streets that are excessively wide, and substantially improve the visual quality of streets.
  • Humanize Canyon (20K ADT) and Broadway in the Boulder town center by putting them both on a diet. The rule-of-thumb threshold for relatively easy road diets are for streets that carry up to 25,000 average daily trips (ADT). An essay I wrote about the unintended consequences of Boulder seeking to reduce congestion, and recommendations about humanizing such streets as Canyon and Broadway, can be found here.
  • Within city limits, five lanes shall be the maximum size of streets, and no more than one turn lane shall be installed at an intersection. In the town center, the maximum shall be 3 lanes.
  • Do not create double-left turn lanes, and remove double-left turns now in existence. An essay I wrote about the folly of double-left turn lanes can be found here.
  • While synchronizing traffic signals is discouraged, when such a measure is unavoidable in the Boulder Town Center, signals shall be timed for the speed of buses and bicyclists. Signals on Spruce and 13th in the Town Center are timed for cars and are very difficult to reach at cyclist speeds. An essay I wrote about problems associated with traffic light synchronization can be found here.
  • Each year, there shall be a reduction in the amount of road space allocated to motor vehicles. Seek road diet opportunities (partly to save money in creating bike/pedestrian/transit facilities). Moratorium: No expansion of road space for car travel (via the addition of travel lanes, turn lanes, etc.) shall occur in the Boulder town center.
  • Continuous left-turn lanes within the Boulder town center shall be retrofitted to install raised medians.
  • The Transportation Master Plan contains an objective that states that “No more than 20 percent of roads shall congested.” This is counterproductive. It induces low-value car trips, more car travel, more air emissions, and more sprawl. More people bicycling, walking and using transit will NOT reduce congestion (due to gigantism, unpriced roads/parking and latent/induced demand). Contray to conventional wisdom, the “free-flowing” traffic sought after by this objective does NOT reduce air emissions and fuel consumption. On the contrary, because conventional tactics such as free roads/parking, synchronized signal lights, an excessive number of travel lanes (roads that are too wide) induce “low-value” car trips (trips on major roads to, say, buy a cup of coffee at rush hour), air emissions and fuel consumption INCREASE on a community-wide basis. An essay I wrote about the counterproductive aspects of seeking to reduce traffic congestion can be found here and here.
  • Revise the definition of Complete Streets. The definition Boulder currently uses allows the City to make the bizarre claim that Broadway is a “model” Complete Street. The definition states that if there are bicycle facilities within a quarter mile parallel to the street, the street can be considered “Complete.” This definition gives a false impression that Broadway is “complete” and therefore needs no modification (such as a road diet) to be Complete.
  • The creation of Complete Streets does not necessarily require the expenditure of money to build facilities or buy right-of-way. Often, a street can be made more Complete by simply allocating the ROW space differently, so that less space is allocated to cars and more space to bikes, pedestrians, or transit.
  • Boulder should require that service vehicles be kept relatively small in size so that large vehicles don’t drive the creation of excessively large street dimensions.
  • Boulder must emphasize accessibility when streets (and parking) are designed, NOT mobility. Mobility privileges car travel and discourages bicycling, walking and transit. Accessibility promotes transportation choices. A report I prepared which compares mobility to accessibility can be found here.
  • Boulder needs to implement traffic calming on a large number of streets, as a huge percentage of streets are overly wide and induce excessive, inattentive, dangerous speeds. An essay I wrote about the merits of traffic calming can be found here. An essay I wrote dispelling the myth that calming increases air pollution can be found here.
  • The Transportation Master Plan should list street segments needing Complete Streets or Road Diet treatments. The City should prepare a citywide road diet plan (examples of low-hanging fruit includes the conversion of continuous left-turn lanes to turn pockets). See “Humanize Canyon (20K ADT) and Broadway” above.

Promoting Pricing Equity

Currently in Boulder, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users pay unfairly high prices to travel, and motorists pay much less than their fair share of the costs of their travel. The following reforms would promote much more cost fairness for traveling in Boulder.

  • To increase transportation funding equity and diversify funding, establish one or more of the following: a VMT fee, priced roads (an essay I wrote about tolling Rt 36 in the Boulder/Denver region can be found here), pay-at-the-pump car insurance, and other user fees. If possible, make such new taxes/fees revenue neutral by reducing or eliminating other fees/taxes when the new user fee is instituted. A detailed analysis of these sorts of user fees can be found here and here.
  • Free parking for retail or services shops in Boulder is not “free.” Those “free” spaces, which are provided only for the benefit of motorists, are not truly free because they are indirectly paid by shoppers who buy products and services within the shops at an artificially elevated price that allows the business or property owners to pay for the purchase and maintenance of the parking. This hidden cost is passed on to ALL shoppers, even those who arrive by walking, bicycling or transit. This is clearly unfair, since such non-motorist shoppers are not using the car parking. Motorists are therefore unfairly subsidized, and non-motorists are unfairly punished financially. The City needs to enact policies that eliminate this pricing unfairness. Tactics include such things as unbundling parking, parking cash-out for employees, eliminating minimum parking requirements for the shop, reforming property taxes that financially penalize shop/property owners who replace parking with buildings, and requiring that parking for the shop be priced.
  • Town center properties should have lower transportation fees assessed by the City, since their location and compact, mixed-use design reduces car trips. Doing that thereby reduces the transportation cost impacts of these properties compared to “drivable,” outlying properties. It is therefore unfair to assess town center properties the same fees as areas with higher levels of costly motor vehicle travel.
  • Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies need to place more emphasis on sticks such as user fees and less emphasis on carrots such as bike lanes/parking.
  • Examples of user fees which would dramatically improve transportation funding fairness:
  • Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fees
  • Pay-at-the-pump car insurance
  • Parking fees
  • Congestion fees for roads
  • Weight-distance fees
  • Mileage-based registration fees
  • Mileage-based emission fees
  • Gas taxes.

Increasing the Number of Bicyclists

Many of the above recommendations promote more bicycle transportation. The following are additional suggestions.

  • A huge number of citizens are “interested but concerned” about bicycling. They are interested in bicycling, but too concerned about safety to want to bicycle regularly.
  • The city needs to remove (grind to smooth) raised “lips” at driveway ramps throughout the city – particularly in the town center. Such lips can be extremely dangerous for less-skilled or inattentive bicyclists. An inventory I conducted of locations where this corrective measure is needed can be found here.
  • Traffic calming (designing streets to obligate motorists to drive more slowly and attentively) is rarely employed in Boulder, and a enormous number of streets can benefit from such a treatment. Doing so would dramatically induce citizens to bicycle more often, as high/inattentive car travel is an important reason why “interested but concerned” citizens opt not to be bicycle commuters (see links above).
  • Road diets are a powerful way to promote bicycling, as they add more space for cycling, and reduce speeding and inattentive driving by motorists.
  • Reduce the excessive promotion or requirement that bike helmets be worn at all times. While helmets tend to be important when riding on higher speed suburban and rural roads, as well as on unpaved mountain bike trails, they tend to be unnecessary and counterproductive on low-speed streets. An essay I wrote about the unintended consequences of the tendency to obsessively call for (or require) helmet use can be found here.
  • The City should oppose any efforts at the state level to make bicycle helmets mandatory. Studies from around the world regularly show that mandatory helmet laws reduce per capita bicycling and do little if anything to improve bicycle safety – particularly in neighborhoods or town centers.
  • Repeal the Boulder law that prohibits bicycling on sidewalks of commercial streets. Canyon and Broadway are WAY too hostile to allow bicycling on street. See link to the BoulderBlueLine below.
  • As is done statewide in Idaho, allow bicyclists to treat stop signs to yield signs and red lights as stop signs. The vast majority of bicyclists already do this, and do it quite safely. An article describing, in detail, the merits of this approach can be found here.
  • “Protected bike lanes” have important drawbacks, despite their popularity with many people who strongly promote them. (1) Such lanes induce higher speed car travel (when a “painted buffer” is used to separate bicyclists from cars); (2) Such lanes lower the ability to see the cyclist (when the protected lane is created by parked cars on the left of the lane); (3) Such lanes increase the inconvenience of bicycling, because bicyclists often have a more difficult time making left turns (this directly violates the need to make bicycling more advantageous); (4) Such lanes increase the difficulty to maintain a bicycling surface that is clear of glass and other debris; and (5) It is only affordable to create such lanes on a tiny fraction of Boulder street mileage, which makes the treatment nearly useless for bicycle commuters.
  • Boulder’s town center is a surprisingly and inappropriately difficult place to ride a bicycle. There are a number of ways to correct this problem. An essay I wrote about how to do this  in Boulder can be found here.

Increasing the number of pedestrians and transit users

Many of the above recommendations promote more walking and transit ridership. The following are additional suggestions.

  • Boulder needs much more compact, mixed and dense development patterns to make transit and walking a substantially more desirable form of travel. These patterns need to be clearly, prominently called for by the Transportation Master Plan.
  • Parking cash-out should be made available for a higher percentage of employees working within city limits.
  • The quantity of “free” parking within city limits must be substantially reduced by pricing a much larger percentage of parking.
  • Add real-time information at bus stops that indicate the time before the next bus arrives.
  • Boulder should continue to require “cross-access” at mid-block locations so that pedestrians have shorter walking distances.

Some of my thoughts about increasing bus ridership can be found here.

Reforming the Boulder Transportation Advisory Board

  • Each TAB member should submit their list of top 10 or 20 transportation issues. Doing this would alert staff and elected officials about the priorities of this citizen board (and possibly inform staff and officials of issues they are unaware of), and better enable board members to collaborate with other boards (there is an admirable effort by the City to have board members collaborate with members of other boards, so that boards are more aware of what various other boards seek). By not knowing the priorities of other TAB members, TAB members are less able to convey to other boards anything about the priorities of TAB.
  • Amend TAB by-laws to allow TAB members to discuss urban design and land use. Not allowing TAB to discuss urban design or land use for particular development proposals is extremely unwise, as urban design and land use are integral to achieving transportation objectives. Without conducive land use and urban design, such transportation objectives are extremely unlikely.
  • Clarify whether TAB is reactionary or proactive. Is the role of TAB to simply react to development projects or issues brought to them by staff? Or are there benefits to having TAB members raise issues not brought before them? (issues that staff or officials may be unaware of).
  • TAB members should maintain a standing legislative agenda (issues that TAB believes should be promoted at the state level by Boulder. This is important in part because there may be state-level issues that TAB is aware of that staff or elected officials are not aware of.

Land Use

  • Designate “walkable/compact” and “drivable” zones in city so we can apply “walkable” policies fairly and appropriately. For example, features such as the ECO bus pass, reduced setbacks, and mixed use land use patterns tend to be primarily appropriate only in the zones designated by the City as “walkable.” Such tactics tend to be less appropriate in the more “drivable” outlying zones of the city. More details about such “transect” zones can be found here. Some of my own thoughts about such zoning can be found here.
  • Increase the amount of affordable housing by creating land use patterns which reduce the number of cars a household must own. Such tactics, which are mostly prohibited in Boulder, include allowing Accessory Dwelling Units, and mixing residences with relatively small, low-impact retail, services and jobs. Some of my more detailed recommendations for creating affordable housing can be found here.
  • Create more housing and mixed use in Boulder town centers. Currently, Boulder provides far too little compact, walkable housing options in comparison to a demand which is far larger and growing (particularly because the “Millennial” generation seeks walkable housing at much higher levels than older generations).

 Miscellaneous

  • Hire Donald Shoup and Todd Litman to speak/consult in Boulder.
  • VMT and ADT are an excellent proxies for quality of life changes over time. Quality of life is inversely related to VMT and ADT. VMT and ADT changes correlate with several city objectives in a way that “green” cars/fuel does not:
    • Less noise pollution
    • Less sprawl
    • Less heat island effect
    • Less flooding and stormwater runoff
    • More affordable housing
    • More affordable transportation budget
    • More healthy population
    • More healthy retail & residential
    • Less injuries and deaths due to crashes
  • Adopt an unbiased and plain English Stylebook. Use “Plain English” for plans, regulations, and presentations. Remove bias in transportation terminology. My detailed recommendations for doing this can be found here.
  • Work with Colorado University to reduce SOV travel by faculty, staff, students. Tactics: disallow ownership of cars by freshmen, and increase the amount of on-campus housing.

Expert Transportation Speakers

To kick off these reforms and increase citizen awareness of (and support for) helpful transportation tactics, I believe it is important, early on, to hold a transportation speaker series.

Speakers I would suggest (links show each of these speakers making a sample presentation):

Summary

Boulder has failed to learn Fred Kent’s essential lesson. That “[i]f you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.” Instead, the City counterproductively continues to strive to make cars happy by, for example, synchronizing traffic signals, keeping densities in central areas and major corridors too low, building and retaining overly wide roadways and intersections, and requiring excessive amounts of underpriced parking. Boulder has made the ruinous mistake of thinking that happy cars promote quality of life and reduces air emissions.

But happy cars are the enemy of a quality city, and actually INCREASE air emissions.

It is no coincidence, for example, that the places in Boulder where cars are happiest — the huge asphalt parking lots and the overly wide monster highways — are the places where people feel most exposed, most uncomfortable, most in danger, and least willing to linger or hang out. They are car places, not people places. They have obliterated what makes Boulder Boulder.

This misguided path means that Boulder is, ironically, losing its ability to improve and protect its quality of life — its “small town” ambience, This road to ruin also means that achieving a community design which makes walking, riding a bicycle, or using transit practical for the vast majority of citizens is not at all possible. In Boulder, despite many achievements, it remains extremely DIS-advantageous to walk, bicycle or use transit.

A great many of the recommendations above, if employed, are essential ways to reverse this.

Mr. Nozzi has a BA in environmental science from SUNY Plattsburgh and an MS in town and transportation planning from Florida State University. For 20 years, he served as a senior planner for Gainesville FL and was briefly the growth rate control planner for Boulder CO. Today, he maintains a consulting practice in which he writes and speaks about street design, urban design, and quality of life. His primary skills are in urban design (particularly walkable streets and form-based codes), bicycle planning, transportation choice, “plain English” land development codes promoting quality of life, and comprehensive planning. He serves as a Complete Streets instructor for communities throughout the nation. He has been a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism. He wrote several environmental, transportation and urban design plans & regulations for Gainesville. He is in Who’s Who for the South & Southwest. His most recent book is The Car is the Enemy of the City. His second book, Road to Ruin: An Introduction to Sprawl and How to Cure It, was published in 2003. He has been an adjunct professor for the University of Colorado at Boulder, and currently serves on the Boulder Transportation Advisory Board and the PLAN-Boulder County Board of Directors. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of other organizations or boards.

 

 

References

 

Travel Time Budget

Forbes, Gerald (1998). Vital Signs: Circulation in the Heart of the City—An Overview of Downtown Traffic. ITE Journal, August 1998.

Goddard, S.B. (1994). Getting There. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pg. 68.

Levinson, D., and Kumar, A. (1995). Activity, travel, and the allocation of time. APA Journal. 61 (4): 458-470. American Planning Association, Chicago. Autumn, pp. 458–70.

Manning, I. (1978). The Journey to Work. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Neff, J. W. (1996). Substitution Rates Between Transit and Automobile Travel. Presented at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Charlotte, N.C., April 1996.

Newman, P., and Kenworthy, J. (1989). Cities and Automobile Dependence: An international sourcebook. Gower, Aldershot, England, p. 106.

Stokes, G. (1994). Travel Time Budgets and Their Relevance for Forecasting the Future Amount of Travel.  In Transport Planning Methods: PTRC European Transport Forum Proceedings. University of Warwick, pp. 25-36.

Szalai, A. (Ed.) (1972). The Use of Time: Daily Activities of Urban and Suburban Populations in Twelve Countries. Mouton, The Hague.

Wikipedia. Marchetti’s constant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marchetti’s_constant

Zahavi, Yacov. Metropolitan Travel Survey Archive. http://www.surveyarchive.org/zahavi.html

Zahavi, Y., and Ryan, J.M. (1980). Stability of Travel Components Over Time. Transportation Research Record. 750: 19-26.

 

Triple Convergence

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/1994/08/18/the-triple-convergence/

Induced Car Trips and Air Emissions

Cassady, Alison; Tony Dutzik and Emily Figdor (2004). More Highways, More Pollution: Road Building and Air Pollution in America’s Cities, U.S. PIRG Education Fund (www.uspirg.org).

http://www.opr.ca.gov/docs/PreliminaryEvaluationTransportationMetrics.pdf

Gorham, Roger (2009), Demystifying Induced Travel Demand, Sustainable Transportation Technical Document, Sustainable Urban Transportation Project (www.sutp.org). Available at: www.sutp.org/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=1461

Hymel, K. M., Kenneth A. Small and Kurt Van Dender (2010). Induced Demand And Rebound Effects In Road Transport, Transportation Research B (www.elsevier.com/locate/trb).

ICF Consulting (2005). Handbook on Integrating Land Use Considerations Into Transportation Projects to Address Induced Growth, prepared for AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment. Available at: www.trb.org/NotesDocs/25-25(3)_FR.pdf.

Litman, T. (2001). Generated Traffic; Implications for Transport Planning, ITE Journal, Vol. 71, No. 4, Institute of Transportation Engineers (www.ite.org), April, 2001, pp. 38-47. Available at: www.vtpi.org/gentraf.pdf.

Litman, T. (2010). Changing Vehicle Travel Price Sensitivities: The Rebounding Rebound Effect, VTPI (www.vtpi.org); atwww.vtpi.org/VMT_Elasticities.pdf.

Noland, R. B. and Lewison L. Lem (2002). A Review of the Evidence for Induced Travel and Changes in Transportation and Environmental Policy in the US and the UK, Transportation Research D, Vol. 7, No. 1 (www.elsevier.com/locate/trd), January, pp. 1-26.

Noland, Robert and Mohammed A. Quddus (2006). Flow Improvements and Vehicle Emissions: Effects of Trip Generation and Emission Control Technology, Transportation Research D, Vol. 11 (www.elsevier.com/locate/trd), pp. 1-14; also see www.cts.cv.ic.ac.uk/documents/publications/iccts00249.pdf. And https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/handle/2134/5289)

Shefer, D. & P. Rietvald (1997). Congestion and Safety on Highways: Towards an Analytical

Model, Urban Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 679-692.

Sierra Club: http://vault.sierraclub.org/sprawl/articles/hwyemis.asp

TRB (1995). Expanding Metropolitan Highways: Implications for Air Quality and Energy Use,

Committee for Study of Impacts of Highway Capacity Improvements on Air Quality and Energy

Consumption, Transportation Research Board, Special Report #345 (www.trb.org)

TRISP (2005). Treatment of Induced Traffic, Economic Evaluation Notes, UK Department for International Development and the World Bank (www.worldbank.org). Available at: http://go.worldbank.org/ME49C4XOH0. Summarizes transport project evaluation methods suitable for developing country applications.

UKERC (2007). ‘Rebound Effects’ Threaten Success of UK Climate Policy, UK Energy Research Centre (www.ukerc.ac.uk); at www.ukerc.ac.uk/MediaCentre/UKERCPressReleases/Releases2007/0710ReboundEffects.aspx.

UKERC (2009). What Policies Are Effective At Reducing Carbon Emissions From Surface Passenger Transport? UK Energy Research Centre; at www.ukerc.ac.uk/ResearchProgrammes/TechnologyandPolicyAssessment/0904TransportReport.aspx.

Williams-Derry, Clark (2007). Increases In Greenhouse-Gas Emissions From Highway-Widening

Projects, Sightline Institute (www.sightline.org); at

www.sightline.org/research/energy/res_pubs/analysis-ghg-roads

One-Way Streets

Baco, M.E. (2009). One-way to Two-way Street Conversions as a Preservation and Downtown Revitalization Tool: The Case Study of Upper King Street, Charleston, South Carolina. http://www.ci.hillsboro.or.us/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=3828

Brovitz, Ted (2000). Converting Downtown Streets from One-Way to Two-Way Yields Positive Results. The Urban Transportation Monitor.

Chiu, Yi-Chang, Xuesong Zhou, and Jessica Hernandez (2007). Evaluating Urban Downtown One-Way to Two-Way Street Conversion using Multiple Resolution Simulation and Assignment Approach. Journal of Urban Planning and Development 133, no. 4 (2007): 222.

Ecologically Sustainable Design Pty Ltd (2005). Summary Report on the Conversion of One-Way Streets to Two-Way Streets in North American Town Centres. Victoria, Australia: Prepared for the Midland Redevelopment Authority. Available by request through Ecologically Sustainable Design Pty Ltd.

Edwards, J. D (2002). Converting One-Way Streets to Two-Way: Managing Traffic on Main Street. Washington, D.C.: The National Trust’s Main Street Center. http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/main-street-news/2002/06/converting-one-way-to-two-way.html

Walker, G. Wade, Walter M. Kulash, and Brian T. McHugh (1999). Downtown Streets: Are we Strangling Ourselves on One-Way Networks?

Motorist Subsidies

Delucchi, M. (Inst. of Transportation Studies, UC Davis, CA 95616) (1996). A Total Cost of Motor-Vehicle Use. Access, Spring 1996.

Ketcham, B. & C. Komanoff (1992). Win-Win Transportation: A No-Losers Approach To Financing Transport in New York City and the Region. KEA, 270 Lafayette #400, New York 10012; July 1992.

Litman, T. (1998). Transportation Cost Analysis; Techniques, Estimates and Implications. Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 1250 Rudlin Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 3R7, Canada.

Litman, T. & E. Doherty (2009). Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis Techniques, Estimates and Implications. VTPI.

Litman, T. (2013). Whose Roads? Evaluating Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways

11 December 2013. Victoria Transport Policy Institute. http://www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf

MacKenzie, J., R. Dower & D. Chen (1992). The Going Rate: What It Really Costs To Drive. World Resources Institute, 1709 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20006; June 1992.

Miller, P. & J. Moffet (1993). The Price of Mobility. Natural Resources Defense Council, 71 Stevenson l #1825, San Francisco CA 94105, 415-777-0220; Oct 1993.

Office of Technology Assessment (1994). Saving Energy in U.S. Transportation. U.S. Congress, OTA-ETI-589.

Sierra Club. America’s Autos On Welfare in 2010: A Summary of Subsidies. http://vault.sierraclub.org/sprawl/articles/subsidies.pdf [accessed July 15, 2014]

Minimum Parking Requirements, Free Parking and Efficient Parking

Shoup, Donald (2005). The High Cost of Free Parking. Planners Press/American Planning Association.

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Curbing the Expectation of Driving at High Speeds

By Dom Nozzi

Many of us who seek to make our world more conducive to happy people rather than happy cars are adamant about the importance of slowing car speeds in communities.

Residential streets typically do not promote the problem of high-speed, free-flowing traffic, but sometimes they do act in such a way when they are used for “cut-through” trips or if they are relatively large neighborhood streets which “collect” traffic fed from smaller streets in the neighborhood (usually called “collector” streets).

Lowering the average motorist speed is one of the most essential ways I can think of to improve quality of life. And the most effective way to do that is through calming strategies which design the street to force slow car travel. It is critical that we LOWER THE EXPECTATION of motorists to be driving at high speeds. High speed car travel in a community should not be considered the “default” way for a motorist to travel.

Tragically, conventional traffic engineers have designed our streets for the past 100 years to promote high-speed travel – even on what should be quiet, low-speed streets. The result is that too many motorists now believe that relatively high-speed driving is the norm.

If we instead start designing our communities so that, eventually, most streets in a community are designed for slow car travel, general expectations will evolve so that a motorist realizes that the normal manner of driving is to drive slow (except on interstate highways, of course). With such an expectation, there will be significantly less road rage (and related hostile driving) in calmed areas, because the motorist EXPECTS to drive slow.

Designing streets for slow speeds is particularly important on residential streets, because such streets are the places where we most expect children and seniors to be, and where people are in homes and bothered by the noise of high-speed car travel. We also need to slow cars on the BIG roads in our community to ensure we solidify a general motorist expectation that they are driving in a slow speed community.

“Road rage” and fast driving are NOT genetically programmed into humans. A slow-speed community is NOT unrealistic.

In a discussion about slower car speeds, it is important to note that speed limit signs have little or no impact on how fast a motorist drives. Average driving speed on a street is dictated by the “design speed” of the street. The conventional traffic engineering philosophy is to assume that safety is best achieved by designing the “forgiving” street. That is, to design the street so that the motorist is “forgiven” if they, say, drive too fast and lose control of their car.

What this means is that the street is made wide and obstructions are kept away from the shoulders so that a fast, out-of-control motorist will not smash into anything.

Unfortunately, this fails to take into account the motorist psychology. If you design a street for safe driving at 40 mph, the average motorist will drive 40 mph, even if the posted speed limit signs say 30 mph, because average driving speed is determined by the maximum speed a motorist feels comfortable driving.

Typically, this philosophy means that a street with a speed limit of 30 mph has been designed with a “design speed” of 40 mph. We should not be surprised when a large number of motorists drive 40 mph on such streets. Enforcement is nearly impossible, short of a police state.

Therefore, in my opinion, the “forgiving street” philosophy gives us LESS safety due to higher speed (and more inattentive) driving.

The effective solution for slowing cars is to “retrofit” our streets (including residential streets) with calming designs that force cars to slow down (which is why things like speed humps are often called “sleeping policemen”).

However, “vertical” treatments like humps are almost never, if ever, appropriate for streets (including residential streets) – particularly those that are on designated emergency vehicle routes (where calming needs to be carefully designed to not excessively impede such vehicles).

In the case of such routes, “horizontal” calming is usually called for. Horizontal treatments include such things as curb extensions or other forms of street narrowing, as opposed to “vertical” calming like humps.

Does Traffic Calming Increase Air Pollution?

A common objection to traffic calming is that air emissions will increase due to “stop and go” traffic that is induced by calming. But this concern makes the mistake of  being overly reductionist. Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy effectively point out why reductionism in this case leads to erroneous conclusions. Newman and Kenworthy correctly point out that those who fear higher emissions due to calming forget about changes in motorist behavior that occur with calming. Reductionist thinking in this case only looks at what is coming out of a tailpipe of individual cars.

But Newman and Kenworthy, take a broader and more accurate view by pointing out that changes in travel behavior (caused by higher development densities, shorter travel distances, congestion, calming, etc.) completely swamp any air pollution gains that can be realized from individual cars that have less stop-and-go travel.

I will grant that it is possible there will be “micro-level” increases in air pollution levels due to calming. But at the “macro” (community) level, I’m convinced there is a net reduction in air pollution. That is, there is LESS air pollution at the community level.

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Run for Your Life When a Traffic Engineer Wants to Make a Road More “Safe”

By Dom Nozzi

Conventional traffic engineers (the people who have been designing our roads for the past century) often like to make the claim that their design strategy is to make the road more “safe.” The tragic irony is that a great many of their “safety” tactics actually make the road much less safe.

And that helps explain why today, we have an epidemic of unsafe, inattentive motorists driving at excessively dangerous speeds. What could be more ironic?

Here is an excellent, common example of how our roads become less safe in the name of “improved safety”:

A road intersection have what are called a “turning (or “curb”) radius.” This radius is a measurement of the tightness or width of the corner of the intersection. The following image illustrates a tight radius vs a wide radius…curbradius

Too often, the conventional traffic engineer will recommend a wider turn radius for “safety.” He or she will frequently state that a wider radius is needed to help improve pedestrian safety. Without a wider radius – the engineer will often claim—motorists will sometimes jump the curb, which would endanger pedestrians.

Nonsense.

What actually happens in the real world is that the wider radius allows most motorists to negotiate the turn at a much higher (and more inattentive) speed, and there is very little that is more dangerous than a motorist driving at excessive speeds inattentively. If a motorist “jumping the curb” was truly a problem, hardened bollards should be placed at the curb to to punish or otherwise discourage reckless, excessively speeding driving.

Another canard that the engineer often pulls out is that the wider radius is needed because the road is used by very large vehicles (such as buses or trucks). The large vehicle becomes what is called the “design vehicle” that the engineer uses to design the road geometries.

But again, the unintended consequence emerges. By enabling the large vehicle to negotiate a turn with a wider turn radius, we induce the high-speed, inattentive driving by the much more common passenger vehicle. Overall safety goes down as a result, because while a large truck jumping a curb is perhaps averted by the wide radius, such vehicles are quite rare, whereas the smaller passenger vehicles which are induced to drive more recklessly are much more common.

In a walkable downtown, it is ass backwards to use a large vehicle as the design vehicle for designing the streets. The pedestrian should be the design “vehicle” if a town center is to be designed for walkability. Using a large vehicle as the design vehicle utterly undercuts the objective of creating a safe, walkable street design for pedestrians.

There are much more appropriate strategies for dealing with large vehicles in a town center that is intended to be walkable. First, the effective turn radius can be made wider without creating the unintended consequences I mention above. This can be done quite simply by adding on-street parking close to the intersection. Or, the community can prohibit the use of large vehicles in the town center.

When conventional traffic engineers mention “safety,” watch out. Usually, it is just a smoke screen to grab the moral high ground at a public meeting concerning street design. Meanwhile, the man behind the curtain that we are not supposed to notice is designing the street for a single-minded objective: Higher motor vehicle speeds — which, of course, degrades our safety and quality of life.

Tactics such as wider intersection turn radii usually fall under the category of the conventional “forgiving street” philosophy, whereby we “forgive” reckless, high-speed, out of control driving by eliminating things that motorists might run into, such as trees, pedestrians, buildings, parked cars, etc.

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Announcing Victor Dover Presentation in Boulder CO

CITY OF BOULDER COMMUNITY EVENT

“The Art of Street Design”

 Presentation and Community Discussion

with Victor DoverVictor_Dover

When: Wednesday March 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

      • Opening reception: 5:30 – 6:00 p.m.
      • Presentation and Q&A: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

 Where: Chautauqua, Grand Assembly Hall, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder

Who: Victor Dover, cofounder of Dover, Kohl & Partners, Town Planning in Coral Gables, Florida, has 25 years experience restoring healthy neighborhoods and creating walkable communities. The coauthor of Street Design: The Secret of Great Cities and Towns, he has designed 150 neighborhoods, urban revitalization programs, and regional plans across five continents, including the 1994 North Broadway Plan for North Boulder.

What:   Victor Dover will describe how to fix our streets, and, in the process, shape enduring cities that people really love.

  • Information regarding City of Boulder North Boulder Plan Update, Envision East Arapahoe Plan, and Transportation Master Plan Update
  • Book signing for new book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns

Why: America is rediscovering its streets. A revolutionary makeover is underway to promote walking and cycling and appeal to a new generation of creative, demanding citizens.

RSVP:  No RSVP required.  Free. For more information – https://bouldercolorado.gov/calendar

About the book: Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns (January 2014) by Victor Dover and John Massengale with foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales shows how to create great streets where people want to be. That begins with walkable streets where people feel comfortable, safe, and charmed by their surroundings. Through hundreds of examples of streets old, new and retrofitted, Street Design shows how good street design can unlock value, improve life and re-knit neighborhoods.

 

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