To help us visualize just how awesome an improved Fell Street could be for everyone in the City, I wanted to post a couple of short Streetfilms to help us see that San Francisco’s problems of malignant street design are not unique to Baghdad-by-the-Bay, and that solutions are readily available.
The first StreetFilm details a 8th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn (NYC) — it’s a one-way very much like Fell Street. It’s residential, potentially beautiful, but has a highway driving through it.
Some of the observations made about this particular one-way street, and one-way streets in general, are:
“You’ve basically got vehicles treating it like a highway. Look how fast this guy is going — that’s what people do on this street.”
“One-way streets…just are not as conducive to neighborhood life (as two-way streets).”
“You’ve got hundreds of cities and towns all across the US right now that are taking their old 1950s-era one-way multi-lane highways and they’re turning them back into two-way streets, because two-way streets, people generally feel, are more conducive to neighborhood life.”
“This, to me, is not a neighborhood street — it’s loud.”
These quotes describe Fell Street to a ‘T’.
Noise levels along the avenue they’re measuring are about 80 Db — about as loud as a vacuum cleaner. I hate vacuum cleaners. When someone turns on a vacuum cleaner in my presence, I want to go all Animal House on it. We know noise pollution is damaging to our health, and it is just generally unpleasant. We don’t deserve to be treated like this. We have to increase our ability to be able to walk and ride up and down Fell Street and carry on a simple conversation without having to yell above the din of traffic.
And as we dive deeper into the abyss of negative externalities from auto-only streetscape design, we occasionally stumble upon some new or not-yet-highly-publicized horror. Here’s an example from Toronto — ‘Audible’ traffic signals no match for din of traffic:
The sound of chirping is music to Mary Lorefice’s ears – if only she could hear it.
One of the major advances in traffic technology is the audible pedestrian crossing signal, which allows visually impaired persons who can’t see the lights to get their cue.
Hundreds of intersections across Toronto are equipped with audible signals, including Ellesmere and Brimley Rds., where four lanes of traffic roar by in each direction, making them an absolute necessity.
Lorefice, who is blind and lives in an apartment building at Ellesmere and Brimley, emailed to say that for several weeks, she hasn’t been able to hear the audible signals, leaving her to guess at when to cross, based on traffic noise.
“The chirp to indicate I can cross is not loud enough to be heard over the noisy vehicles,” said Lorefice. “As a blind person, I’ve come to depend on these signals to cross the intersection safely.”
Like an onion, after we unravel each layer of malignant streetscape design, there’s a new horror that is exposed. Each new freedom we achieve is only relative — we will continue to push to be ever-more-free from the shackles of motordom, and all of life’s social ills. Behind every desire, is another one, waiting to be liberated, when the first one’s sated.
The article cited in the Streetfilm, Many cities changing one-way streets back, is from the noted left-wing, socialist-utopian publication, USA Today.
Our next StreetFilm shows how to increase safety and accessibility along a stretch of road that is flanked by a park — in this case Prospect Park in Brooklyn — in our case, The Panhandle:
The panhandle’s multi-use path is too crowded with all manner of soft traffic moving at different speeds — it’s dangerous, as most everyone seems willing to admit. We’re starting now to hear more rumblings for a viable solution. We don’t want to drop any more pavement in the park — instead, we’re going to re-apportion the existing Fell Street roadway just like the StreetFilm above shows — move the car parking out to protect cyclists, and provide us a two-way cycletrack. Really, we should not tolerate anything less than a full-on two-way street for all vehicles, including motor vehicles, and with full-on cycletracks, but it’s possible we could compromise down to a bi-directional cycletrack. Any road with more than a single lane of automobile traffic moving in one direction (that is, two or more adjacent auto traffic lanes moving in the same direction) creates many of the same negative effects of a typical one-way street — it is for this reason that we should not tolerate them. We may not get there immediately, but that’s the end goal.
One of the most sober and convincing articles on converting our streets back to friendly two-ways is this Governing Magazine article. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s well worth your time.