July 19, 2022

Christina DeMarco on Road Diets as a Walkability & Community Revitalization Tool

Christina DeMarco is one of those engaged people that truly cares about place and cities. She listened to Dan Burden’s webinar last week, and has contributed her thoughts here on Vancouver Viewpoint  on how the road diets discussed  by Mr. Burden can easily be transferred to Metro Vancouver streets.

Christina has worked on two continents, has co-authored a book on “Planning Sydney’s Future” in Australia.  She contributes at the local and regional level in Metro Vancouver and was a senior planner for the City of Vancouver. She then became the head planner for Metro Vancouver. In Australia Christina worked on the metropolitan plans for Sydney, Canberra and Perth. She currently is a consultant for Planning Solutions Network in Vancouver.

Here’s Christina:

“Earlier this month,  Viewpoint Vancouver alerted readers of an upcoming webinar writing “If you have not heard the remarkable Dan Burden present, here’s your chance. He’s been thinking about streets for active use for decades.”

Christina with Ted Sebastian, City of Vancouver

Burden’s talk was titled “Designing Road Diets as a Tool for Walkability and Community Revitalization.” As a long time advocate of thinning streets and familiar with Dan’s work, I was excited to tune in to see what he was up to these days. As it turned out, Dan boiled down his decades of experience with road diet implementation into one very informative and engaging hour. The audience was several hundred strong and the moderator tallied over 100 questions for Dan in the chat box.

Many of the examples shown through pictures and statistics were of arterial roads being trimmed from four traffic lanes to two traffic lanes and the space repurposed for wider sidewalks, space for street trees, bike lanes, more parking, crosswalks, etc. In almost all cases, traffic volumes did not decrease substantially but crash rates certainly improved with calmed traffic.

 

Dan explained that a road diet’s objective is to improve safety for all roadway users while increasing livability by creating a bicycle and pedestrian -friendly environment.

He added that this in turn can encourage economic growth by increasing property values and improving vitality of commercial centres.
His “before” and “after” pictures certainly brought home the fact that community revitalization and place-making were among the biggest benefits in many cases.

 

So here we have an urban repair tool that can advance social, economic, and environmental objectives and foster community engagement at the same time. Dan gave dozens of examples of road diets across North America. He provided a clear description of what problems they were trying to solve, before and after metrics on key criteria such as crash/injury rates, speeds, and car, bicycle and pedestrian counts. He also explained how transit, goods movement and emergency vehicles were accommodated in the re-designs.

The good news is that here in Metro Vancouver we now have regional policy to support road diets, including both for local streets and major roads. Earlier this year the Mayors around the region approved TransLink’s long term plan called Transport 2050. See the “People-First” policies in TransLink – Transport 2050 Regional Transportation Strategy – Page 170-171 (publitas.com)
I am also happy to see Vancouver City Council adopted a resolution penned by Councillor Wiebe to repurpose 11% of Broadway Corridor street space to create public plazas, pocket parks, cycling routes, and greenways. Eleven percent seems timid given that the SkyTrain is supposed to convert millions of car trips to transit trips annually, but it is a start. In many of Burden’s examples, about 50% of the road space was repurposed.

One Oregon State transportation planner captured Burden’s community- building contribution in the following quote: “Having attended many of Dan Burden’s presentations, and having collaborated with him on several, I can vouch for his greatest talent: getting people with different viewpoints to agree on a vision for their community, by showing them the untapped beauty and potential they have in their greatest commonly-owned asset – their public streets.”

Time for all of us to start thinking about which streets in our neighbourhoods could use a road diet.
You can watch the webinar by clicking this link.

And you can learn more about the talented Dan Burden, who was inducted in the Project for Public Spaces “Hall of Fame” here.”

 

 

Images:before&after of Farmington, New Mexico

 

Article by Christina DeMarco

 

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