Riverfront: The wrong way to build a Complete Street

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?


  1. How can we oppose this plan? 8 lanes of vehicular space against 11 feet of pedestrian/bicycle space. Did these designer’s go to school?

    In the plans, it says public involvement. I say we send them back to redesign.

  2. Page 28 shows the problem perfect. Besides getting off your bike and using the crosswalk, how do they propose using the “cycle track” to cross an intersection?

  3. Page 28 of the pdf, rather. It is numbered 27 in the presentation.

  4. I’m all for bikes. I bike. A lot. But, I call BS on the “Pedestrian/Bicycle, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Bicycle/Pedestrian” issue. The Champs-Élysées has more than 8 lanes of traffic and only one bike and ped area on each side. The SAME LAYOUT. Granted, it has more than 11 feet of pedestrian space on each side – it has more like 40 feet of public space with additional private space in front of buildings. Its a beautiful pedestrian and biking place. But it has nothing to do with the number of lanes. Pedestrian and bike comfort is less about the number of lanes and more about how the street edge works. If cars fly by at 100mph right next to you, it is not a good place. Riverfront will handle car traffic. Get over it. How it handles car and bike traffic depends on how the private development happens as well as how the street is designed. They go hand in hand. Is 3 meters enough? Maybe. Is 8 lanes a scandal? Hardly.

  5. Remember, we only have so much ROW to work with. If you take 90% of that and allocate it to cars, what invitation are you creating for people? I’m not disagreeing with your argument on “it’s how you treat the edges”, but if you’ve taken all of your available space and given it over to cars, how much edge do you have left?

  6. Jan Hersch · ·

    Echoing what Jason pointed out, he’s still right. He stated you must give “equal treatment to all modes”. If the Champs-Élysées is 8 lanes (approx. 90 feet), and you’ve given pedestrians 40+’ on either side, you’re still much closer to an an equal distribution of modal share. The equation is:

    pedestrian, pedestrian, pedestrian, pedestrian, car, car,car,car,car,car,car,car,car, pedestrian, pedestrian, pedestrian, pedestrian

    Look at this street view image of the Champs and notice that the pedestrian space looks to be even greater than the roadway:


  7. Champs Elysees is the primary axis that not only a global city is organized around, but also links the primary civic and cultural totems for an entire country. There is some merit to its width. Furthermore, it has a depth of fabric and population density that demands a certain amount of space, much of which is dedicated to the pedestrian. Development in an around Industrial could never get more than a block or two deep. In fact, if we measured it, I wouldn’t be surprised if pedestrian space equaled travel lanes. Another issue is that it has a hierarchy of movement from the edge to the center including parking, bike lanes, “browsing lanes” and in some sections dedicated bus/bike lanes all buffering the pedestrian realm (along with outdoor seating areas, cafe stands, etc further subdividing space).

    So in effect, rather than car car car car, etc. It is pedestrian space, seating space, pedestrian space, parking, bike lanes/transit lanes, slow traffic, faster traffic, etc. So there is differentiation even within the various lanes, reducing the dominance of all that “car car car” space.

    It also doesn’t have medians channelizing traffic in effect into one-ways allowing drivers to feel more comfortable driving quickly and potentially unsafely, offsetting any efforts toward “pedestrian refuges”. Median space is better off where pedestrians are likely to use it, along the edges.

    But the real point is that it isn’t Champs Elysees, despite potentially having a similar width now, that isn’t an excuse to provide a similar width or capacity of vehicular traffic. Nor is whatever formula that supports it having level of service “A” traffic flow. Level of Service A means Quality of Place “F”.

  8. Sorry to throw a Champs-Élysées grenade into the room. This isn’t that street. I thing the biggest differences are:
    1 – yes, there is a more pedestrian space
    2 – development depth is limited on Riverfront
    But the biggest difference? Parking.
    You don’t get gigantic parking lots in front of every building. You have outdoor restaurant seating. You have a space to walk.
    Change the development paradigm that worships parking in front of the front door and you get a walkable space. If you don’t have a parking lot in front of the building, you have space for pedestrians. That’s how they get the 40-feet plus of pedestrian space.

  9. […] Riverfront: The Wrong Way to Build a Complete Street […]

  10. […] from around the network: Bike Friendly Oak Cliff has a harsh critique of a "complete street" plan in that Dallas community. DC Bicycle […]

  11. This looks a lot like Haskell Drive near CityPlace (another inhospitable failure).

    The Riverfront Boulevard public involvement workshop is May 10th at City Hall. Open house begins at 6:30, presentation 7:00. If you have an opinion, be there!

  12. welcome2dallas · ·

    Come on people – we all know that you bicyclists don’t care about street rules or traffic lanes anyhow. You will all get on this street and run through stop stines and edge pedestrians off of the sidewalks, just like you do everywhere else.

    Despite all of your great comparison to this European road and that European road – this is Texas! It is hot as balls and people enjoy the right to drive their trucks from place to place (and those places have much more distance in between than they do in some 1,000 year old Euro city).

    I think it is great that you all have chosen to ride bikes, but please do so in a way that is consistent with traffic laws and does not put pedestrians such as myself at risk!

  13. palchik · ·


    Please dont generalize Texans. I’m a Texan (grew up here, went to school here, work here, etc.), but I’m tired of being a slave to my car. In most parts of Dallas, you can’t do a damn thing without getting in a car. You can’t buy a loaf of bread, you can’t get to school, you can’t even go for a walk in a park without driving first. Is that really the life you want? Is that really freedom of choice?

    Is far as breaking traffic laws, most cyclists are as law abiding as they come, but for 50 years we have been designing streets to be convenient to drivers only. Unfortunately that often makes it very difficult for cyclists (or pedestrians) to get around. Having 4-way stops every block may be no big deal for someone whose biggest concern is a sticky accelerator pedal, but when you are pedaling uphill on a bike, you really would rather not loose your momentum. There are better solutions (round-abouts in the case of 4-way stops), and many of us have seen them with out own eyes around the world.

    If you want to drive, then drive, but those of us who want other options are residents, citizens, and tax-payers too, and we are tired of supporting a way of transportation – actually a way of life – that makes our communities ugly, dirty, fat, and anti-social.

  14. I still just don’t understand the need for this many lanes of traffic on Industrial. As Dallas devotes more and more lanes to cars, other places are doing the opposite. New York just announced that it’s significantly reducing private car traffic from 34th street (one of its busiest cross town routes). The following quote in the Times article about it was so refreshing:

    “Ms. Sadik-Khan said a city study showed that only one in 10 people travel along 34th Street by car, including taxis; the rest walk or use mass transit. Faster buses would benefit ‘the majority of the people who are actually using the street,’ she said.”

    It’s nice to hear someone recognizing pedestrians as street users. In Dallas, anyone who isn’t using a car is a freeloader on the street as far as many (most?) are concerned.

  15. Looks like a through road to me. A good way to bypass some of the worst traffic on I-35. Especially during planned upgrades.

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