Friday, September 21, 2012

Idea - Losing lanes

Late this summer Mound went through some brief lane reductions on Shoreline Drive and Commerce Boulevard due to construction. I was fascinated mostly with how traffic continued to move through these spots with barely a hiccup.

Merging to one lane, eastbound on Shoreline Drive. No problem!
I happened to be at the corner of Lynwood and Commerce when construction of Walgreens started and southbound Commerce was reduced to one lane. It was end of work day traffic, with lots of cars going south, stopped on a red light. There were also a few cars trying to get out of the parking lot by the Verizon store. "Oh no," I thought to myself, "There are too many cars, and people will not be able to get through the intersection very well!" Moments later the light changed to green, and all the cars, including those in the parking lot, got through just fine!

Southbound Commerce traffic reduced to one lane... and it went smoothly. But no accommodations for Pedestrians here. You have to cross the street. There's no where for you to walk to anyway!
I also drove and walked through the reconstruction of the trail crossing on Shoreline Drive several times. Each time I, and every other vehicle seemed to have no trouble merging, and driving through the site without a problem. It reminded me of this short video from Strongtowns that documented a similar situation...

This all reinforces a thought I've had now for several months. There really is no need for four lanes on Commerce and Shoreline. It only gives cars a reason to drive faster. I've lived in Mound 9+ years now, and just the other day I noticed a sign on Shoreline as I was driving into town from Spring Park saying "Pedestrian Safety Zone" "Laws Enforced."

Beware... you are entering the "Pedestrian Safety Zone" Be assured that the 'law' is enforced here.

There is NO WAY anyone driving into Mound on Shoreline would think to slow down for pedestrians. First of all, there aren't any pedestrians. Second, the lanes are so wide that there is no need for them to think they need to slow down because there is plenty of room to just drive through. Third, we have been taught since we were little children to stay out of cars way. If you are in the car, pedestrians (or as I try to call them... "People that Walk!") should stay out of your way.

Plenty of room allowed for cars to drive through here. People aren't really wanted.
Also, as just stated, there are no pedestrians on Shoreline anyway. There's no 'place' to walk to, expect maybe the Post Office. Otherwise, you would have to walk along busy traffic on Shoreline Dr, and past parking lots and auto centered businesses like the Stonegate Plaza (ECFE, Dollar Store), SuperAmerica, Caribou, and the Transit Center (more parking). To call this a "Pedestrian Safety Zone" is a real bad joke engineers are putting on us.

Children maneuvering through the "Pedestrian Safety Zone"
Reducing a lane on both these streets clearly won't truly turn Shoreline Dr and Commerce Blvd into Pedestrian Zones, but it would be a start. How much easier would it be for Dakota Trail users to cross two lanes of traffic, instead of four? If we stopped cars from using that outside lane on these streets, it gives bicyclists a better chance to safely bike to Jubilee or Carbones. Here's another short Strongtown video demonstrating this crossing in Fargo, ND.

Lane reduction makes sense in so many ways. It calms traffic, it makes our downtown more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, it gives people a REAL chance to stop. If you think Mound needs four lanes of traffic on these streets, then you need to seriously ask yourself the question, is Mound a Place to drive to, or drive though?

Because if you want "Mound to be a place of business", "Mound as a destination", then Mound needs to have a serious discussion about it's streets, and how they can be retooled for people... not automobiles.