December 14, 2011 § 4 Comments
I attended a city council meeting today along with Patrick Kennedy from Walkable DFW to observe a vote taking place on a new development in West Dallas that’s been getting a lot of press recently. The development promises a new organic grocery store, apartments, shops and more. The problem is that what was being requested at the council meeting was a change to the PD (Planned Development) zoning to strip away elements that promote walkability. Arguments became heated from two sides as various neighborhood activists spoke passionately about the need for economic revitalization in the area and the lack of choices for the community. Ironically, both sides of the debate were very pro-development, and actually excited about everything being offered by the property owner. The single point of contention came down to one solitary issue: form.
At one point, the founder of the Fort Worth Avenue Development group stood up and said, “We never cared about form when the organization was started!”, another activist in favor of changing the PD spoke of the need to approve the amendments as an act of “social justice”. Patrick and I were taken aback by that line of reasoning, given that stripping away walkability mandates from the development would actually raise the need for people with low income to own a vehicle and expose them to greater poverty.
So why is this so important? Simply put, all great retail streets, whether they were built 1,000 years ago in Europe, or 150 years ago in the Wild West, are nearly identical in one respect: form. Though the street widths may vary, the buildings are all built to the sidewalk and connected forming a natural wall, primary doorways all face the street, the majority of storefronts are between 15 and 20 feet wide, the facades are filled with details, contiguous sidewalks exist (the wider the street, the wider the sidewalk), and all blocks connect to each other seamlessly maintaining sightlines that invite you to continue strolling. These features are what makes it possible to walk from SoHo to Midtown without really noticing the distance. You can find this consistently whether you’re in San Francisco, or Oslo. For instance:
To counter point this, most post-war development in the US became formless with buildings separated by hundreds of feet, large parking lots creating moats in front of stores, and facades oriented at varying distances from the street without any regard to adjacency. If you take the 300 foot block in Bishop Arts and compare it to a larger block in the below image, you’ll also note that far more businesses exist in the form-based area. Another point for argument is that when adjacency is disregarded, nothing compels neighboring developments to maintain consistency and walkability. This leaves the city and street broken into a series of fragments, making walkability uncomfortable, unsafe, and left to a minority who are unable to afford regular auto-ownership.
The reality is that the natural, walkable form is considered a “timeless way of building”, and is most advantageous because its buildings can constantly be re-used for small entrepreneurs, its pedestrian prioritization makes it safe for children, seniors, and multiple modes of transit, and the same streets make up the places that we all know and love within our own communities. Whether it’s West Village in Dallas, or King’s Street in London. They’re the places we vacation, the places we stroll and linger in, the places we want to retire to, and the places we sit outside and people watch…and sadly, many of us have forgotten why they’re worth fighting for.
April 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Spotted this video on copenhagenize.com and thought it did a good job of tackling the notion that people can’t change. After viewing, it’s incredible to see just how much we’ve moved forward in so short a time.
March 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
We’re getting more updates from the Dallas delegation to Seville, Spain from the Velo-City bike conference. Something heartening to note is that Seville has only adopted major bicycle infrastructure within the last 6 years and that their rate of cycling has gone from 0.2% (Same as Dallas) to 6.6%. That translates from 2,500 people to 70,000 in less than a decade! Another important fact is that Seville’s temperatures mirror Dallas in regards to heat in summers. They regularly tip the 100 mark, yet people still walk and bicycle in large numbers.
Here’s an update from Councilwoman, Delia Jasso:
“The conference has been eye opening on the many opportunitties other countries have used to increase bike ridership for such important things as improving air quality, improving health and impacts on economic development.
I have great information to bring back and share with everyone. the Dallas delegation is already talking about a cyclovia in Dallas and a potential route. see you all soon!”
Dallas Bike Coordinator and Oak Cliff resident, Max Kalhammer, checks out a bicycle from a city bike rental station.
A two-way cycle track with curb seperation from the road. These are typical in Seville, Spain.
Two-way bollard seperated cycle track. Notice the parking along the opposite side.
Traffic calmed roundabout intersection. Intersections are where most accidents occur for all modes of transit (car, bike, train, etc.). In this image, the traffic circle intersection has been thinned so that all vehicles pass slowly through the space. These slower speeds minimize the severity of injuries and cause all users to be more aware of their surroundings. Though the speeds have been slowed, the traffic circle itself allows vehicles to yield rather than stop.
A bridge in Spain with both pedestrian and bicycle facilities. The Calatrava bridge in Dallas has no bike facilities added.
The Dallas delegation preparing to rent bicycles from the city’s bike share program.
Mother with child riding comfortably in a two way bike lane…notice the bridge in the background.
March 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Just received the first update from the Dallas delegation that headed to the Velo-City bike conference in Seville, Spain. Above, my personal hero Gil Penalosa, is holding up a Bike Friendly Oak Cliff shirt! Gil has instituted some of the most amazing public space and bike infrastructure in Bogota, Colombia that has led to major increases in the region’s economic develoment, quality of life and safety. Check out this video where Gil tours Bogota with NY’s Streetfilms team:
The conference is in day two. Below, Penalosa introduces Pilar Vega, Eva Willumsen and Enrique Jacoby. The latter is one of the founders of the Network of Ciclovias (Car-Free Sundays) of the Americas and promoter of the Active Cities, Healthy Cities Contest.
July 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
A BFOC’er just forwarded us the latest StreetFilms work titled Copenhagen through North American Eyes. It is an amazing collection of images and dialog about the potential for a city that embraces multi-modal infrastructure. Fortunately, in Dallas, we’ve overbuilt many of our roads and the potential to create a similar environment is closer than most realize.
April 7, 2010 § 1 Comment
The Sierra Club has a great interview with Jan Gehl, Copenhagen planner and consultant for New York City’s new bike and public spaces infrastrcture. Jan details the ideas behind creating more “human-scaled” places, and specfically notes how making accommodations for bicyclists is a key to creating a more livable city. One major point in our favor for adopting greater bicycle infrastructure is a point Gehl makes when asked the difference between adding bike lanes in NYC compared to Copenhagen:
“…it’s much easier to make bike infrastructure in New York because you have wider avenues and streets than we have. So there’s more space, so you can actually make everybody happy: sidewalk, street trees, bike lanes, parking, and driving lanes. It’s wonderful to have a city which has wide streets.”
That’s one thing Dallas has plenty of.
March 24, 2010 § Leave a Comment
(Image from Copenhagencyclechic.com)
The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Planners launched a survey earlier this month to gather womens’ thoughts on cycling. More from Renée Burke Jordan:
Survey results will offer a snapshot in time while furthering a lively discussion blossoming in the U.S., Canada and England. Why don’t – or do – women bicycle? The survey is open until May 15 to women and girls only, please. Preliminary results will be reported at the March 31 webinar. Click here to start the survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete.
The free webinar on March 31st, “Writing Women Back into Bicycling,” continues the conversation with examples of cultures where women bicycle at rates similar to men, a review of survey results so far, and next steps that would encourage more women to cycle more places more often. Listen live from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. ET or access the archived webinar. Register here.
Exciting stuff, and definitely worth taking part in!
February 27, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Bogota, Colombia, under the stewardship of New Urbanist Mayor Enrique Pena, implemented some of the most progressive transportation changes in recent history, with much of the reason due to its high number of low income households who simply could not afford a car. The video above shows how the city quickly embraced multi-modalism and how it positively affected everything from quality of life to local business.
Car Free in Big D recently noted how the poorest citizens in Dallas are having 40-45% of their income spent merely on maintaining auto ownership. In January, the APTA also released a report noting the average savings by city for those who choose to move to public transportation, with Dallas commuters pocketing an additional $733 a month. That’s money that could all be filtered back into the local economy.
February 17, 2010 § 2 Comments
We’ve been amazed at how quickly momentum has built for fostering bike friendly communities in our region. What started out as a handful of friends sitting around a table wondering what could be done to change our community for the better and promote a bicycle culture has spread beyond our wildest imaginations.