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"Sidewalks" or pedestrian lanes in the street pavement

ok_planner

Cyburbian
Messages
29
Points
2
I am working in a Texas city that, as is typical, has not required sidewalks in new development for decades. While we now require sidewalks in some new development and are looking to expand where they are required, we still have large areas, including virtually all of the neighborhoods built since the 1950s without sidewalks. On top of that, we have had extraordinarily wide street standards (something we are also looking to remedy).

My question is about the feasibility of creating a "pedestrian lane", similar to a bike lane, within the street pavement, rather than off street like a typical sidewalk. My thinking is that the cost of retrofitting sidewalks in these neighborhoods will be prohibitively expensive combined with the fact of extra wide roads with very little or no on-street parking, perhaps a cheaper but still effective way to provide safer pedestrian connections is a striped "lane" for pedestrians. Either a lane on each side (again, like a bike lane) or perhaps something more like a two-way protected lane on only one side of the street.

Looking for thoughts, criticism, reasons why it would or wouldn't work and if anyone is familiar with this having been tried elsewhere. My searching has not found any examples.

Thanks.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
233
Points
7
I've lived in some southwest cities that have the same situation - no sidewalks, but wide residential roads. Makes walkability almost impossible, even in nice neighborhoods where you'd expect people would want to stroll. I can't give you any legal reasons for why you should or should not do something about sidewalks in your local code, but I can help in the urban design department: the sidewalk separates and designates a pedestrian pathway (obviously). The additional elevation from the street keeps pedestrians from having to share the ROW with vehicles and road debris / storm water etc, and adds visibility to pedestrians by increasing their height. In general, it conveys safety and a perceived space for the casual walker. Add a wide landscape buffer planted with street trees and shrubs between the sidewalk and the ROW and you've got the recipe for the beginnings of a great streetscape (akin to Class 1 bike trail). If you try to put painted lines down on the street (akin to a Class 3 trail), it will most likely be confused for bike lines, people will not feel safe, and they still won't walk in the street. The biggest barrier to walkability is perceived safety. If the situation is perceived as un-safe, especially if local drivers aren't used to mixing pedestrians and vehicles in the ROW, then people just won't use it. Now some people (typically younger and more athletic) will run in the street no matter what, but the majority will not.


But adding sidewalks and a landscape buffer give you additional opportunities that contribute to walkability. Street trees convey additional safety for the pedestrian, solar coverage during the daytime, cooling for strollers, and, once the street trees mature, a canopy that can seriously increase local property values via desirability. In addition, think about incorporating stormwater bmp's into the landscape buffer thereby reducing the overall cost for curb/gutter/drain infrastructure. Anyways, there's more to it than just sidewalks or not - sidewalks are the very basic fundamentals for starting to create great neighborhoods.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
233
Points
7
I guess that's the long way of saying, if you can't do sidewalks due to cost, code, etc., I wouldn't bother.
 

glutton

Cyburbian
Messages
387
Points
11
I've seen walking lanes in small tourist towns in Alaska. That was the first time I ever saw one, thought it was a great idea and more cost effective than retroactively putting in sidewalks. Apparently 'cell phone walking lanes' are popular in China as well.
 

Masswich

Cyburbian
Messages
1,303
Points
23
Never heard of it but I think it's a creative idea. I agree that many walkers won't be willing to use them but I suspect some will. Ideally there would be some vertical indicators (floppy bollards at least.)
 

glutton

Cyburbian
Messages
387
Points
11
Never heard of it but I think it's a creative idea. I agree that many walkers won't be willing to use them but I suspect some will. Ideally there would be some vertical indicators (floppy bollards at least.)
I think it helps a lot if it's a Main Street/business district, or somewhere where there already a latent demand for pedestrian infrastructure. Flexposts might help, but they also can get confused as bike lanes so I'm not sure if that's always a good idea. Depends on the setting I guess.
 

Maister

Chairman of the bored
Messages
25,988
Points
48
On the one hand I want to applaud and encourage the effort to think of ways to at least introduce the concept of walkability. But I have to be honest here - the addition of designated walking areas (assume there will be some sort of barrier delineating vehicle from pedestrian areas?) may be of rather marginal value if those sidewalks have nowhere to go to. A pedestrian lane winding through acres and acres of single family res neighborhoods not connecting to stores/services/destinations will serve as little more than underused infrastructure to permit neighbors to take their dogs for walks and facilitate pooping in each others' yards. On the other hand, if these lanes DO lead to some sort of destinations you may be on to something.
 

Suburb Repairman

moderator in moderation
Moderator
Messages
7,282
Points
28
I like mercdude's comments above--those are pretty spot-on in how pedestrians perceive safety.

When you say "really wide streets," what do you mean? What is the curbface-to-curbface distance? Are these raised curbs with underground stormwater, or are they ribbon curbs or soft shoulders with swales?

Tell us a little about the streets. What kind of condition is the pavement in? Are there other planned improvements, such as road reconstruction, replacement of underground infrastructure, etc. in the works?

My suggestion is not to simply add sidewalks... I think you want to consider road diets as a tool since it sounds like you have issues with roadway width as well. This gets you potentially to a circumstance where you are not acquiring additional right-of-way (saving you brain damage & $$$) and hopefully slowing traffic to ped-friendly speeds in addition to providing the separate pedestrian facility. You can extend drainage inlets, which is cheaper than ripping them out as part of an overcooked streetscape. It also shortens crossing distances at intersections, which has a huge impact on perceived and actual pedestrian safety. It is less disturbing to residents. This is also where the paint can come into play... you can go in with paint to demonstrate what the new section might look like. Get people used to the idea in a context that they can understand. This is especially helpful if your fire marshal is an asshole. Use paint to identify the challenges along the way. Paint is cheap, and it can lead you to a better ultimate design.

It took 75 years for your city to get this way. You cannot economically fix that overnight. My suggestion is to develop a plan for street & utility reconstruction on an area-by-area basis as a Capital Improvement Plan based on current conditions of the infrastructure. Make it digestible bites so you can score victories & build momentum. If you need to do road reconstruction, the cost of the sidewalks as an increment of that reconstruction is pretty minor. You can also triage to some extent--identify the streets most in need of pedestrian facilities based on factors (ped traffic, destinations, ped safety issues, etc.) and start with those. Look carefully at those destinations as well... there's good grants out there for transportation alternatives through your MPO, TxDOT, etc. especially when a school is present. Also look toward CDBG funding... it might not fund sidewalks depending on how your state/local CDBG action plan is written, but you can use CDBG funds to offset other infrastructure costs that could allow reallocation to sidewalks.

A sidewalk is also not a universal answer. We have streets in residential areas of our downtown that do not have sidewalks, and I do not anticipate adding them. Traffic is very light on these streets, and the traffic that is present is almost always 20 mph or less. The streets are narrow... and almost woonerf-like in how the adjacent homes treat the street.

Just striping off a walk lane isn't going to get you what you want, IMHO. I think you'll end up with bicycles, but not pedestrians. Pedestrians really need that bit of separation offered by sidewalks, and painted lanes is likely to create bicycle-pedestrian conflicts.

I totally want to give you a fist bump for trying to find a lean creative solution.


I'm in Texas and happy to assist in greater detail. Feel free to send a private message to me with your specific city and I'll take a closer look.
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
233
Points
7
Wow - you said woonerf! AND you live in the great lone star state??? I want to fist bump you, sir!

BTW, suburb is completely spot-on. And to add to that post, I think you're going to give your traffic engineer a heart attack and, more importantly, the City a dozen lawsuits if you try to put unprotected pedestrians in the same ROW as autos without doing more than just painting some stripes on the road. There may be a reason why the only person to witness a similar concept was in Alaska.
 

JJvoyageur

Member
Messages
4
Points
0
Encouraging the counterintuitive woonerf (von-ehrf) in the face of compliance modality

Responding as a (somewhat knowledgable) layman, I would advise that the first challenge is determining whether the relevant streets are thoroughfares moving vehicles from point A to B and beyond, or more in the vein of a space where neighbours connect and objectives for
community wellness override transportation goals.

Engaging the residents on this topic is very challenging, but rapidly becomes enthusiastically supported by many/most where the expectation is to preserve an already vibrant, people-oriented neighbourhood, or among those who seek to create that.

The third challenge derives from the existing governance model (which varies per jurisdiction) and the performance indicators and measures for staff who enforce compliance. It is a rare municipality (or organisation) that measures community engagement and innovation in the context of a frame that sensibly seeks consistency over time. The policy framework that delivers consistency and accountability demands measures that ensure this focus in staff. Innovation in such a frame is asking for trouble in career terms--big problem. Compliance is easy to count, meaningful engagement and experimentation are not.

A fourth challenge--surely one we all get--is the current click-bait modality in media and communications. Building knowledge and consensus does not sell. Headers that suggest danger, do.

In our circumstance at https://is.gd/4QDQoH the precipitating event was a "30 feet to nowhere" sidewalks arising from a bylaw requirement passing the cost of sidewalks to developers through the re-zoning application process. This prompted a citizens' petition started by 21, reaching 67 by the time it was presented to Council, and grounding an information email list now over 100 members representing at least twice that number. When a Mayor is elected with an 89 vote margin, numbers begin to invite attention. What has been most resonant at Council, however, is the placemaking/community wellness aspect, with desire to encourage walkable neighbourhoods and alternatives to individual vehicle use.

We find that our city engineer is having great difficulty in getting on board, and our compromise at some point may be what you propose...defining a path in the street. In fact, this poses no end of issues in relation to parking and provokes need for an "infrastructure heavy" approach. The neighbourhood prefers "infrastructure light" through use of planters, a "green" visual identity program, stones ethed with way-finding information and child-produced street art (under guidance). Longer term planning would include speed tables at entrance points, light projected from existing poles to "paint" the streets at night through the canopy of Garry Oaks, and vertical elements (pierced metal designs?) and way-finding, historical and similar references.

We're actively researching I thank those participating in various threads (e.g. the one about the anger about sidewalks). INsights and referneces most welcome!

Thanks from Canada ;-)
JJ
 

dmhaight

Member
Messages
3
Points
0
I am working in a Texas city that, as is typical, has not required sidewalks in new development for decades. While we now require sidewalks in some new development and are looking to expand where they are required, we still have large areas, including virtually all of the neighborhoods built since the 1950s without sidewalks. On top of that, we have had extraordinarily wide street standards (something we are also looking to remedy).

My question is about the feasibility of creating a "pedestrian lane", similar to a bike lane, within the street pavement, rather than off street like a typical sidewalk. My thinking is that the cost of retrofitting sidewalks in these neighborhoods will be prohibitively expensive combined with the fact of extra wide roads with very little or no on-street parking, perhaps a cheaper but still effective way to provide safer pedestrian connections is a striped "lane" for pedestrians. Either a lane on each side (again, like a bike lane) or perhaps something more like a two-way protected lane on only one side of the street.

Looking for thoughts, criticism, reasons why it would or wouldn't work and if anyone is familiar with this having been tried elsewhere. My searching has not found any examples.

Thanks.
 

dmhaight

Member
Messages
3
Points
0
Check out Florida State Road 699 in Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores for a unique combination of bike lane and pedestrian walk.
 

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
1,232
Points
21
I am working in a Texas city that, as is typical, has not required sidewalks in new development for decades. While we now require sidewalks in some new development and are looking to expand where they are required, we still have large areas, including virtually all of the neighborhoods built since the 1950s without sidewalks. On top of that, we have had extraordinarily wide street standards (something we are also looking to remedy).

My question is about the feasibility of creating a "pedestrian lane", similar to a bike lane, within the street pavement, rather than off street like a typical sidewalk. My thinking is that the cost of retrofitting sidewalks in these neighborhoods will be prohibitively expensive combined with the fact of extra wide roads with very little or no on-street parking, perhaps a cheaper but still effective way to provide safer pedestrian connections is a striped "lane" for pedestrians. Either a lane on each side (again, like a bike lane) or perhaps something more like a two-way protected lane on only one side of the street.

Looking for thoughts, criticism, reasons why it would or wouldn't work and if anyone is familiar with this having been tried elsewhere. My searching has not found any examples.

Thanks.
I live in such a Texas city, in a neighborhood built in the 1950s, with some sidewalks and a lot of streets without them.

I think you'd need to put down a lot of large size Botts' dots to keep the traffic in the roadway and off the shoulder.

I was walking on the edge of the street with my dogs and a car actually hit my dog (which was on a 4 foot leash which means he almost hit me) because the driver just wasn't paying attention (the dog survived). Now when I walk them in the neighborhood, I put a Serfas Thunderbolt on each dog's leash near the collar and wear a reflective work vest. And I still don't always feel safe.
 
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