Looking outside the lines

I was once at a city council meeting where a new road improvement was being considered. A resident raised a concern that the recommended wider, straighter and flatter road would encourage people to speed. The city engineer stood up and, sheepishly, said something to the effect of, "that is why we have law enforcement." I about fell off my chair, especially when the council members nodded in agreement.

In discussing Tuesday's blog post on the highway through Grand Marais with a group of engineers and planners, one of them relayed a story to me about a police officer at a similar meeting. That police officer, wise to what was going on, supposedly told the engineer that his department should not be expected to spend their resources correcting the engineer's lousy design. Touche.

Between the Strong Towns site and the New Urban Network site (where posts from Strong Towns also frequently appear), we had seven people try and estimate the speed of the highway section based only on the design. We had removed the adjacent land use from the photo leaving only the highway section itself. Of the eight photos, nobody got a majority correct. Only one person guessed four correctly. Six of the seven people guessing did not even get half of them correct.

Obviously this is not a scientific sampling, but I think the logic revealed in the exercise is powerful. The only criteria used for the design of this thoroughfare -- and others like it across the country -- are based on auto traffic. Primarily speed and volume. Any land use considerations, such as maximizing the adjacent land values, making efficienct use of existing public utilities or limiting demand for additional auto capacity by providing an environment compatible with walking, are non-existent.   

This is not acceptable. We invest billions of dollars annually in the United States using this one-dimensional thinking. That can't continue.

Here are the full photos for each section. Thanks to everyone who ventured a guess.

Photo 1 - 55 MPH

Photo 2 - 30 MPH

Photo 3 - 30 MPH

Photo 4 - 40 MPH

Photo 5 - 55 MPH

Photo 6 - 40 MPH

Photo 7 - 55 MPH

Photo 8 - 40 MPH


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