Kickstarter to document the world’s changing streets

Our streets are changing. There are more bike lanes for more bikers, better sidewalks, better streetscapes. You can see it in Fairfax near the Good Earth or any time you’re in San Francisco.

But how are they changing, and why? How are cities learning to finally deal with congestion and accommodate other modes of travel? Todd Drezner wants to take a look, but he needs a little help to move beyond New York City. He wants to film across the United States and even take it international.

You can watch the trailer here.

The Kickstarter fundraiser ends tomorrow at 5pm and, as of this writing, he still needs about $2,000 to make his goal of $25,000. If he doesn’t make it, he gets nothing. If he does, he gets the full amount. If you’re as interested in the intersection between travel and urban design, maybe you’ll want to give to make sure it happens.

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Better streets in New York instructive for Marin

Nobody wants Marin to turn into a New York City – it’s a great city but we like our quiet just fine thankyouverymuch – but that most pedestrian of places has become a laboratory for how to redesign streets with people in mind. From Redwood Boulevard to Alexander Avenue, there are myriad ways to actually improve the flow of traffic while giving space to those on foot or bike.

Janette Sadik-Khan, chief of NYC’s Department of Transportation, was the architect of so much of of this change and enshrined it in a planning guide for the rest of the country. At its most basic, her concern was for simplicity: simple intersections, simple crosswalks, simple interchanges, and so on. The Department of Transportation released a report, Making Streets Safer (PDF), detailing how to apply the principals it has pursued for 6 years.

Formed in the concrete canyons, these are principals we can apply to our much quieter county. Downtown Mill Valley, for example, is a tangle of streets, intersections, and crosswalks. You’re never quite sure who can go next at the stop signs or where pedestrians are going to come from next or even where the parking actually is. The San Anselmo Hub, too, is a bit of a mess, with long delays at rush hour and a bus turn that relies on the goodness of drivers to navigate.

Streetfilms profiled the dramatic transformation New York underwent during Sadik-Khan’s tenure. It is worth a few minutes of your day.

NYC Streets Metamorphosis from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

What’s the deal with San Rafael’s one-way streets?

One Way

by Matt Peoples, on Flickr

Downtown San Rafael must serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, it is the walkable urban core of Marin, a major center of retail, culture, religion, and office space. On the other hand, it is the gateway between Ross Valley and Highway 101, and it has turned two of its five east-west streets (Second and Third) into high-speed, one-way arterials for that purpose.

Though these streets are repellent to pedestrians and, therefore, retail, the one-way travel conversion allows speedy and efficient access to the freeway, so at least they function well as glorified on/off ramps.

So why are B, C, and D streets, which run north-south, one-way, too?

Stockton City Limits wrote about Stockton’s one-ways and offered up Jeff Speck’s rationale for converting back to two-ways:

One-ways harm downtown in several ways: First, as one-way streets are designed to get cars to their destination as fast as possible, increased automobile speeds create a more dangerous and uninviting environment for pedestrians. Second, one-way streets distribute traffic unevenly, negatively impacting surrounding commercial activity. Businesses along one-ways suffer from a lack of visibility as drivers can quickly speed by without even noticing that a business is there, or only drive by once a day, either on their way into work or on the way back home.

That last point – that businesses suffer – is especially true for businesses whose storefronts face away from oncoming traffic.

Now, Second and Third, unpleasant though they are, at least serve their (too-limited) purpose well. Traffic is heavy to and from Highway 101 along those routes. Folks who remember the one-way conversion some 40 years ago recall those roads as congested when they were two-way.

But the lettered streets are all pain with no gain. There’s no improvement to traffic flow because there is almost no traffic flow to improve. In the meantime, all they do is hurt business, confuse visitors, and provide a raison d’être to the ugliest Do Not Enter sign in the city.