The simple premise is that we need to stop what we’re doing. Stop building highways. Stop building interchanges. Stop widening roads.
One of Marohn’s trademark statements is that by misunderstanding the true nature of streets and roads, a hybrid has evolved–stroads. Streets are for people and roads are for cars. And as Marohn says, “stroads are the futon of transportation options. They try to do everything and they don’t do anything well.”
A broad misunderstanding of transport mobility exists in today’s culture. Planners and urbanists have stressed this point for decades. Marohn posits three specific misunderstandings that have driven our culture down the current path of design and construction (or more bluntly, design for destruction).
- Highway design is appropriate for local streets. It sounds absurd, but local streets are generally designed like smallish highways. Even the basic assumptions of 12-foot wide travel lanes and double-yellow centerlines originate from highway design. These features were intended to improve the physical comfort of drivers–fast moving drivers.
- Highways improve the local economy. Specifically, the misunderstanding is that highways through population centers improve the economy. The opposite has been shown true looking back at the last 50 years. Finally, thanks in part to the current recession, urban highways are being removed. And the result? Revitalization.
- Safety is enhanced by prioritizing auto access. As a broad generalization, when the transport design industry speaks of “road safety”, the reference is to drivers of vehicles. But as attention by designers is focused more on vehicular traffic and away from bicyclists and pedestrians, the stroads become more dangerous for non-motorized traffic. Stroads emphasize vehicular speed at the expense of bicycle and pedestrian mobility. And speed kills.
- Research. As boring as it sounds, reading through state statutes is a way of collecting important data about rules of engagement for the design community. For instance, your state may have a requirement that any publicly funded street be designed to at least 30 mph. That may sound harmless enough, but translates to dangerously fast traffic through neighborhoods.
- Case studies. Look around and identify the stroads in your rural town, suburbs, or cities. Then write about them or at least make others aware of them. The more case studies collected about dangerous stroads, the more likely communities will take a stand against the continued proliferation. (Don’t know any transport nerds to share your case studies with? It just so happens the author of this post is such a nerd. Contact him!)
- Graphics. Images are compelling. You don’t need to be a professional photographer to capture the essence of good and bad street design. Don’t try to think like an engineer when you aim a camera. Think like a pedestrian. What is it about your location that is making you comfortable or uncomfortable? This should be an easy assignment for most readers, since you probably have a mobile phone equipped with a camera. Three steps: (1) approach stroad, (2) point, (3) shoot.
- Share the message. Readers of Urban Times are probably already fairly enthusiastic about positively contributing to the built environment. But the average person on the street should be extremely concerned about transportation design. Bad design leads not only to economic woes and other discomforts–it leads to incapacitating injuries and death. Get passionate about this and while you’re at it, get your neighbor passionate about it.