Slow down, you move too fast

A policy that encourages cars to keep moving privileges cars at the expense of pedestrians and bicyclists. Since drivers, for the most part, already believe that they have priority on the road, in places where there are many more walkers and bicyclists, drivers able to drive more quickly because of fewer impediments would likely feel more empowered to move more quickly and to drive faster, likely endangering non-drivers.

As long as roads are engineered to allow very high speeds, and cars are engineered to drive very fast (in the 1940s, the speed limit on residential streets in DC was 15 mph), reducing impediments on drivers is likely to be deleterious to pedestrians and bicyclists.

— From Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

$55 million Maplecrest extension approved

I honestly want to hear John Kalb‘s view on this project:

Less than a week after a majority of members expressed serious doubts about the project, Allen County Council on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the extension of Maplecrest Road from Lake Avenue south to Adams Center Road.

The 6-1 vote in favor of a $25 million construction bond should allow work on the 1.5-mile, $55 million project to begin next year, said County Commissioner Nelson Peters, acknowledging that “we worked hard to sell the project.”

By extending Maplecrest south over the Maumee River and often-congested railroad tracks, the project is expected to improve transportation and public safety and promote economic development, especially in southeast Allen County. But because the cost had doubled since 2002, some Council members had questioned whether the benefits were worth the expense.

I have my doubts that new roads actually create economic development; they seem to instead shuffle economic development from old roads to the new ones.

— Photo from the Allen County government Web site

Come, let us rezone together

I’m completely ripping off The News-Sentinel’s headline above, but it’s too good not to. (BTW: Great headline, Caleb!)

In his column today, Kevin Leininger comments on the proposed rezoning of 633 properties in a “downtown edge” zone.

On paper, perhaps, the proposed changes — intended to codify earlier downtown improvements plans — don’t seem all that consequential. It would limit the location and size of gas station/convenience stores, for example, establish guidelines for heights and setbacks, and would seek to limit common features deemed too “suburban,” such as surface parking lots and drive-through service lanes, while promoting so-called “mixed-use” projects combining housing, stores and other urban features.

But recent history shows how even seemingly benign guidelines can conflict with market decisions.

Consider planners’ preference for “pedestrian-friendly” development that eliminates parking lots between the sidewalk and door. When Subway Systems Inc. built a new restaurant on West Jefferson Boulevard earlier this year, it included a parking lot and drive-through — passing up a city grant in the process — because an earlier location had taught that foot traffic alone could not sustain the business. And when Woodson Motorsports moved to East Washington at Clay two years ago, it lost a city grant when it put a modern metallic façade on the historic brick building.

In each case, the owners decided to act in their own perceived best interest – even though those interests were not necessarily compatible with planners’ interests.

If their properties had been rezoned, however — and both are included in the proposed “downtown edge” area — those decisions could have been made more complicated.

Personally, I’d hope that such rezoning would not mandate urban-style development, but at least put it on even footing with “normal” suburban-style development. Because it seems to me that current zoning is not in any way “neutral,” despite Kevin’s perspective.

Suburban-style development, including minimum parking standards, is the only one codified, with everything else having to be submitted for “exceptional” approval. Unless I am wrong, the code the city is considering would only open a new urban-like avenue for development. Is that true?

‘Good cities consist of good people.’

Cities do not consist of freeways, buildings, transit systems, houses, malls, sidewalks, hydro wires, sewers, water mains, snowplows, corporations or government.

Good cities consist of good people. Like a vibrant company, they tap their best people — those with intelligence, energy, integrity, goodwill and a large well of experience — to do the best things. With a critical mass of good people, all the other elements of urban living — transit, wealth, a healthy environment … the list goes on and on — fall into place.

The key to successful cities in this age of increasingly specialized labour demand and a slowly eroding petroleum economy is to attract topnotch people who can adapt to the fundamental changes occurring in our community now.

Read the entire Ken Gray column in the Ottawa Citizen here.

— Hat tip: Richard Florida