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.
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?
A fascinating and provocative video from an organization in England, FitRoads, about an experiment which turned off the lights, the traffic signals, and what kind of behaviour followed.
I just received this link today, but it seems quite timely following the NDOT meeting on safety improvements to Hwy 50 through Mound House last night, in which much of the audience was advocating for traffic signals at the best solution. Traffic signals do indeed increase the rate of crashes, though they may decrease the severity of crashes.
Could it be that a complete street is a street without signals?Worth thinking about!
“Imagine getting out of your car and joining the world again.”
Anne Macquarie, board member and founder of Muscle Powered, penned a great opinion piece for the Nevada Appeal today on Narrowing Carson Street. She points out the numerous benefits that could come from the narrowing, not the least of which is a Carson Street that pedestrians feel comfortable crossing. The struggle to revision Carson Street will happen before the Board of Supervisors, the Redevelopment Authority, and the Regional Transportation Commission, but it will also play out in the pages of the Nevada Appeal. There have been several letters recently objecting to narrowing, and in favor of “the way things used to be” (though of course they never were) and for a continued dominance by cars. If you feel that the narrowing is valuable, please consider a letter to the editor saying so and providing your personal experiences and dreams.
I love StreetFilms! There is nothing like the visual to cause one to reconsider what one thinks one knows. And here is a film short on 20 mph speeds on residential streets in England, the 20 is Plenty, For Us campaign. Most of the streets shown either were narrow to begin with, or have traffic calming measures installed, so our widest streets in Carson City would need something done to them to make this practical. Just imagine, though, drivers and bicyclists and pedestrians sharing streets as common space rather than funnels for impatience and pollution.