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.
State transportation agencies recently had to return unspent money to the federal government, in a process called rescission. Twenty states cut transportation enhancement (TE) funds at or at less than their share of the overall transportation budget. Nevada chose to gut the TE program by taking 62% of the rescission from this program. Transportation enhancement funds are used for bicycle and pedestrian enhancement projects, as well as some others. Though all projects are supposed to accommodate bicyclists and walkers, they often do not, and certainly projects built in the past did not, so there is much work to do just to bring these modes to a share of the public roadways. Transportation enhancement funds can be used to make streets and highways into “complete streets,” facilities that serve all modes of transportation.
Why did Nevada have so much in unspent TE funds to begin with? Because the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) drags its feet on implementing projects to enhance biking and walking. Why did they take so much from TE? Because NDOT does not support the idea of bikers and walkers as having a right to a share of transportation infrastructure.
Rails to Trails’ rescissions page has more detail, and the linked table show just where Nevada stands. Not at the bottom, but third from the bottom, exceeded only by Nebraska and Texas. Several states, recognizing the backlog of bicycle and pedestrian projects that are critically important to safety and fairness, did not cut any funds from transportation enhancement.
Muscle Powered wrote to NDOT Administrator Susan Martinovich asking that transportation enhancement funds be cut in proportion to their share of the budget, or not at all, but we’ve received no reply. If this is important to you, you may want to write Martinovich yourself, or contact the new media. If NDOT succeeds in gutting transportation enhancement this time, they will continue to do it in the future.
Bordewich Bray Elementary School celebrated Nevada Moves Day by organizing a walk from the old Boys & Girls Club location on Stewart St to the school with is at King St and Thompson St. About 50 students walked with Principal Valerie Dockery, other school staff, and a number of community volunteers. We’d like to see these walking school buses (students walking with one or more adults) happening every day, not just on special occasions. If you have work flexibility to walk with students to or from school, please get in touch with your school and ask how you can help.
Bill Story, NDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Coordinator, provided the photo showing the students walking, and showing the new sidewalk they are walking on along Curry St. Sidewalks along Curry, Fourth St, and Fifth St were recently repaired and replaced by Carson City Public Works, and provide a nicer and safer walking environment for everyone.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s Fastlane blog announces a new policy that puts walking and bicycling on equal footing with motor vehicles! He uses the words “sea change,” and this certainly has the potential to be that. The policy includes:
Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
Go beyond minimum design standards.
Collect data on walking and biking trips.
Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal).
Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.
Of course the federal government only has some control over what the states do, even with federal money, so it will also take change at the state level that has so far never happened. I think now is the time to exert pressure on NDOT and on the state legislature to change the way things are done in Nevada. A rational transportation system that works for everyone is now a step closer, and many many more steps are needed. Literally. We have a lot of poor decisions and damage from the past that will take a long time to correct, but if we can at least head in the right direction, we are moving towards a better world.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking, a national advocacy organization, recently released the “Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2010 Benchmarking Report” on the status of biking and walking in all states and major cities (Las Vegas is included). Though the report is rich variety of text, charts and graphs, some relevant rankings for Nevada include:
Cycling to Work ranking = 17th (0.6%)
Walking to Work ranking = 31st (2.3%)