Roop Street Bicycle and Pedestrian Project to Begin

Construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities is about to begin on Roop Street between Winnie Lane and Northridge Drive! Although short, this stretch of road is currently one of the more dangerous areas in town for cyclists and pedestrians. Safe and well used bicycle facilities exist on either side of Lone Mountain, but cyclists must brave fast traffic and a crumbling shoulder if they wish to connect the two areas. And although pedestrians are instructed not to use this route, no other reasonable routes exist nearby. It’s not uncommon to see a baby stroller being pushed through the dirt and gravel on the side of the road to get over the hill to the shopping center.

NOT a complete Street
Roop Street over Lone Mountain in 2009

Here are the details from Carson Now about the project:

Work is expected to begin August 27 on a Carson CIty project to provide bicycle and pedestrian improvements on North Roop Street from Winnie Lane to Northridge Drive. The Carson City Regional Transportation Commission has awarded a contract which will connect existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Carson City, according to a news release. Roop Street between Winnie Lane and Northridge Drive currently does not have a sidewalk or bike lanes, and people often try to use a narrow strip of concrete against a wall to travel this section of road. After the project is completed this fall, there will be bike lanes on both sides of the road and sidewalk connections to existing sidewalks on North Roop Street and Northridge Drive.

There has been widespread support from the City’s bicycling and walking community and from school district representatives. City representatives are very pleased that this project is being implemented. “We’re happy to implement a project which connects other existing facilities and will provide for safety improvements” said Patrick Pittenger, Transportation Manager in the Carson City Public Works Department.

The project is being funded primarily by a Federal grant acquired by City staff through the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT). This project is one of several bicycle and pedestrian projects recently funded through grants overseen by NDOT. “The Nevada Department of Transportation is pleased to work with our local partners to implement a project with funds secured by the State” said Tracy Larkin-Thomason, Assistant Director of Planning for the Nevada Department of Transportation.

The road is expected to remain open to traffic except for a one-week period planned for early October. Motorists are thanked for their patience and safe driving in the work zone.

For additional information, please contact Patrick Pittenger at (775) 283-7396.

When completed, Roop Street over Lone Mountain will safely connect neighborhoods and businesses on both sides of the hill. It will also further complete the longest, continuous north-south bicycle route in Carson City, stretching from Emerson Drive on the north to Silver Sage near the county line on the south. It has been a long time coming, and we can’t wait!

“Road Diet” for Carson Street?

The notion of putting downtown Carson Street on a “Road Diet” has emerged again, this time championed by local business owner Doreen Mack. According to Dan Burden, a consultant who coined the term and now  travels the country helping cities figure out how to put their roads on a diet, “A road diet is anytime you take any lane out of a road.”

According to Streetfilms (www.streetfilms.org) “Road diets are good for pedestrians: They reduce speeding and make vehicle movements more predictable while shortening crossing distances. They’re good for cyclists: Many road diets shift space from car lanes to create bike lanes. They’re good for drivers: Less speeding improves safety for motorists and passengers, and providing left-turn pockets allows through traffic to proceed without shifting lanes or waiting behind turning vehicles.”

You might remember that NDOT gave Carson Street back to Carson City a couple of years ago. We – that is, broadly, the people of Carson City – own and maintain it now. The City planned to redesign Carson Street to make it more friendly to pedestrians  – and to downtown businesses – when the City undertook ownership. Unfortunately, that idea, like many others, was shelved during the  great recession that has had such a continuing impact on our state.

Meanwhile, downtown businesses suffer. Who wants to walk downtown except on Nevada Day or  during Taste of Downtown? Yet downtown businesses need pedestrian traffic to stay alive. As Doreen says, “Downtown parking and fence removal is essential for retail shop owners and customers. It creates synergy. When people see activity, they want to stop and see what is going on. In essence (a road diet) would create more foot traffic and bring in more business for the shops in surrounding areas, not to mention more jobs.

There will be a informational meeting about the Carson Street road diet on August 21 at 5 pm in the Sierra Room of the Carson City Community Center.

Conversation with an Engineer cartoon

Conversation with an Engineer: A cartoon on the relationship between residents and engineers, this one from Strong Towns, who also had the post Confessions of a Recovering Engineer which we linked to a week ago. Have a sense of humor, or stay away. These cartoons are a take-off on xtranormal iPhone vs. EVO cartoons. I think.

Walk Score heat map

Carson City’s Walk Score walkability heat map

Walk Score yesterday released new “heat maps” that show neighborhood walkability. This addition gives a visual representation of the walkability of your place, beyond the numerical walk score for your address.

You can view the map for Carson City. How do we do? Overall, our walk score is 44, which is below average for Nevada but not horrible. The data is from two zip codes, 89701 and 89703, but strangely the third 89706 zip code where I live is missing. My address walk score is 75, great for Carson City, but I suspect that is based in part on amenities that are no longer available, as there are a lot of empty storefronts in my part of town.

It is worth zooming in on various parts of the map to see what the walkability and bikeability of your neighborhood is, as well as where you shop and work and play.

Walk Score is by no means perfect. It makes a lot of assumptions about what kinds of amenities people want, which may not be your priorities, it doesn’t do a great job of determining accessibility, as an amenity across a busy street with poor pedestrian access and protection rates just as high as one without the hazard, and of course there is a lot of fuzziness. For example, the green areas on the map are all clustered around Carson Street, because that is where the businesses are, but crossing Carson Street can be an uncomfortable challenge for adults and a too-risky crossing for kids. But I think these Walk Score maps are a useful measure to help us understand where we live and what we might do to make our place better.

A greenway on Nevada St?

Please watch the StreetFilms video on Portland’s neighborhood greenways, and think about the applicability and practicability for Carson City.

Portland has a grid street system, except for the west hills and the far suburbs, and Carson City does not have a grid except in a few areas, so it is difficult to identify locations where a street parallel to the arterials and collectors could be prioritized for bicycle use.

But Nevada Street immediately popped into my mind. It runs a fair distance, about 1-1/2 miles from nearly Winnie Lane on the north to 10th Street on the south. It is already a fairly calm street, so it would require less traffic calming than would many other streets. A few speed humps (like the one on Division Street), a reduction in the speed limit to 15 or 20 mph, bulb outs and/or bicycle and pedestrian passthroughs at major street crossings (Fifth Street certainly, and perhaps Musser, Robinson, Washington and Long) to discourage through motor traffic, and orienting signs for bicycle free flow, would create a bicycle friendly route.

As shown in the video, the greenways create comfortable and practical routes for all sorts of bicyclists, not just regular commuters who feel comfortable riding in traffic. I can imagine it being a part of our yearly Bike to Work Week cruiser ride. The route passes close to Fritsch Elementary School, and is not far from Bordewich Elementary. It also provides access to downtown from both the north and the south.

The idea is that only people who live on Nevada Street would be using their motor vehicles on Nevada Street. Others might be on for a short distance, and would use cross streets, but the nature of the street would be a place friendly to and safe for bicyclists, pedestrians, kids, dogs, etc.

What do you think? Would it work in Carson City? Is Nevada Street the best place for a pilot? What traffic calming actions would make the most difference? What other streets might be good candidates? How would you make use of the neighborhood greenway?

Whither Carson Street?

Vision of Carson St at Telegraph St (from Carson City Planning)

On Sunday, September 5, 2010, the Nevada Appeal ran an article entitled “Main Street makeover: Business owners divided over Carson Street plan.” The article laid out the general vision of what might happen to Carson Street now that some of the traffic has been diverted to the freeway and parallel streets have been or will be improved. It provided viewpoints pro from downtown business owners and con from other business owners and individuals. Some of the same con viewpoints were expressed at the last Carson City Board of Supervisors meeting.

I’d like to reply to the article, and to the opposition, with my thoughts.

The terms “narrowing” and “road diet” do not capture what Carson City transportation advocates would like to see on Carson Street. The term “complete streets” does. The National Complete Streets Coalition says:

“The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.

Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.”

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Livability in small towns

Transportation for America is hosting a series of posts on Livability in rural and small town America. There is a great introduction that places livability in the context of non-urban areas, where is often not recognized. Four case studies have been posted so far, with eight more to come. Of the places so far, Cache Valley Utah is probably the closest in setting to Carson City.