Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Stab at Improved Pedestrian Areas in Hampden Township

When was the last time someone proposed a beautified Carlisle Pike, at least for some small stretch of it? At present, it's nasty for bicyclists and pedestrians to travel on. Plain awful. Furthermore it is ugly, with dozens of powerlines and utility poles suggesting that the earth's horizon was erased by a utility contractor and that the sky and sunsets were subjugated to the whims of hack developers.

The "pike" is designed for cars and only cars. I would love for this change.  My vision is for a boulevard lined by trees that shelter sidewalks, marked bikelanes for cyclists, attractive WI-FI bus stops. Why stop there? Public sculture? Community gardens and playgrounds placed in central places for all neighboring denizens.

I don't know how to embark on the years long public action nightmare that is obviously necessary to kick-start  such a big endeavor, so I'll begin with related resources, research and rhetoric I've found initially on the web. Let's start with this piece about why pedestrian space makes life better:

"After 20 Years of experimentation around the world, pedestrianization has emerged as an effective tool in the management and control of urban traffic, the economic revitalization of downtown areas, the conservation of historic districts, the enhancement of local environmental quality, and the creation of a social setting capable of responding to various needs." National Academies, 1982

Lest some locals think that there is too much congestion on the Pike already to permit my civic fantasy, let it be known that some of the most busy roads have been converted to pedestrian space, such as in Times Square. So despite the amount of commercialization on the Pike, there are ways to fit improvements.

Why invest in such a change? Consider these benefits:

  1. Positive health impact. A study for Spokane, WA, finds several benefits of developing pedestrian areas.
  2. Increase in retail space value. Studies in Boston found greater retail traffic when a street was closed. 
  3. Improved transportation options. An improved design permits bikes and bus stops, both of which may lull mass transit types from their default torture as they're milled around in cars for so many years!
  4. Greater socialization among residents. Syracuse University surveyed city residents and learned the bus provides them with greater relaxation but also a place to socialize. Not to mention that I'd be happy catching up with neighbors in an interesting green roofed bus stop like the one shown here
  5. Development of a community asset. Studies in California provide several cases of higher property values resulting, especially among higher-end properties, when improved pedestrian and transportation systems are developed nearby.


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