Just reviewed the plans for the new Riverfront “Complete Street”, and the attempt put forth is hardly worthy of critique. It’s being billed as a 21st Century Main Street, which would be accurate if you enjoyed Main Streets that contained no life. For those unfamiliar with the term, a “Complete Street” is one that takes in consideration multiple modes of transit and give equal treatment to each. There’s nothing equal in the Riverfront renderings. It’s a 6 lanes + 2 turn lanes street with glorified sidewalks being developed as “cycle tracks” for shared bicycle and pedestrian use. In other words, its form is:
Pedestrian/Bicycle, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Bicycle/Pedestrian
There are multiple reasons to develop a complete street including lessening CO2 emissions, allowing for/enabling multiple transit options, enlivening an area with pedestrians, and greater economic development potential. Problems with our current streetscapes are that there is far too much weight given to one mode of transit which lessens the likelihood of use for any other. What are we trying to enable? Pedestrianization of an area, or automotive through-way? When it’s far easier to drive than it is to walk or bicycle, why attempt another mode? And who exactly would want to walk, or dine, or bicycle beside a 6 lane arterial? When cities like New York are removing cars completely from major roadways, it’s odd that we’d take the opposite stance and shove more vehicles into an area that we’re trying to bill as people-friendly.
View the video below to see Copenhagen’s planner, Jan Gehl, discuss implementing a true “Complete Street” and note how they’re taking 6 lane roads and converting them to two vehicle lanes only. This is a city with far greater density than Dallas, yet it’s removing vehicle lanes. If we want a 21st Century Main Street, we have to move away from the fear that “Dallas can’t” change from auto-only use. We proved during the Better Block, that if you gave people a different option for a street, they would embrace it and come out with their families. Imagine a place that has a more equal road treatment, like McKinney Avenue between Maple and Allen (sidewalk, car, car, trolley, sidewalk)…now imagine putting a 6+2 lane arterial road down the center. Does it still seem inviting?