Another way to deal with too-wide streets

Last week I wrote about too-wide streets, which was also one of the most common topics on my old blog Provocation. It’s a recurring problem in Utah (though it shouldn’t be).

So what can we do about it?

During a recent visit to San Francisco, I saw another possible solution:

IMG_1713The picture above shows one street that has been partitioned into different sections for different purposes. The center section, which includes two lanes in each direction, is faster and doesn’t have any street parking. On their own, the lanes are what I might  think of as a stroad — a city “street” that functions more like a high speed “road” connecting cities.

But in this case, the fast lanes are flanked by slower ones. In the picture, that’s the lane on the far left, as well as a harder-to-see lane on the right, where there are parked cars along the curb. Here are a few more views of this same street:

IMG_1715

In the picture above, a bike lane — or actually a sharrow for both cars and bikes — is visible. That’s possible because traffic in the side lanes moves much more slowly.

Here’s another one:

IMG_1717I took that last picture from the middle of the crosswalk, so it shows the two fast lanes in the center of the street.

Obviously, this type of street is inferior to some of our better examples in Utah. Imagine taking Center Street in Provo or Main Street in Salt Lake City, splitting them in half, and putting fast traffic down the middle. That would ruin those otherwise peaceful places.

But this idea is perfect for streets that are currently wide, fast, and unfriendly to pedestrians. State Street in Orem immediately comes to mind, as do many of the streets in downtown Salt Lake City. In those cases, the edges could be slowed down and converted to sharrows. That means safer sidewalks for pedestrians, quieter streets, and more potential bike infrastructure. Slow traffic along the edges also benefits local businesses, who are hurt by high speed limits that move cars too quickly passed them.

Then, in the center, cars can still move relatively quickly, maintaining traffic flow and appeasing the engineers. It’s a solution that benefits nearly everyone and that doesn’t require major changes like these.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Wide streets discourage walking | About Town

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