Last week we talked about the need for Athens to better integrate bikes into arterial street design. With greater access to downtown, more people will ride downtown, and more people will be downtown. However, our focus on better access to downtown does not mean we think downtown and the downtown master lack opportunities for improvement. Indeed there are a couple of tweaks that would greatly improve downtown streets for everyone.
First, Athens could consider reversing the angle of parking space to make it exiting a space easy, safe, and visible. Pulling into a downtown space is easy. Backing out of a space is not:
Parked cars block our view as we back into traffic. This configuration is also tricky when we’re riding: we cannot see (or make eye contact with drivers), and cars may suddenly into our path. Flipping or reversing the angle of parking solves this traffic dilemma. Reversing the parking angle means we’d back into the space, and pull into to traffic:
With this configuration, when we exit the space, we have a full view of oncoming traffic. When on a bike, we can now make eye contact and communicate with drivers. Visibility is improved! Safety is improved! And it really does not change street operations. The parking movements are the same; the order is simply reversed. Last, it’s cheap! This change can be made during street repavings at no extra cost!
Second, Athens should bring shared streets to downtown. But wait! you say, don’t we already share the road? Shared streets go much further than a mere sign: shared streets subtly reorganize street-space to give equal priority to people on bikes, people on foot, and people on cars. Shared streets work by eliminating by blurring the lines between uses. Rather than pushing people to the edges of the road and placing cars in the center, shared streets allow more mixing between walkers, and riders, and drivers. Shared streets often eliminate curbs and lane lines and they post low speed limits. While this seems like chaos, it can greatly improve street safety. It turns out a little bit of chaos makes everyone pay a little more attention. The graphic cross section of a shared street looks fairly…pedestrian:
The aerial view of Seattle shared street better reveals how a shared streets looks and operates more like a plaza:
The Downtown Master Plan currently calls for more sidewalk space—Pedestrian Corridors—along College and Jackson. Why not shared-streets? A shared street design would allow College and Jackson to act like true Promenades without closing the street to cars. Sounds like a win all around!!
For more information on Shared Streets:
http://www.planetizen.com/node/72620 (has a link to a good pdf of the project)