Shared Space Succeeds at a Busy English Intersection

We came across this story of an imaginative “shared space” that transformed the town of Poynton, England. The town is centered on the junction of its main commercial street and a major highway, but its town center has been in economic decline, dominated by a noisy and congested stream of traffic that includes many trucks.

When the junction was due for reconstruction, local leaders realized that widening the road to handle more vehicles was not the best way to improve Poynton’s situation. Instead, they turned to shared space principles to devise an intersection that fosters equality, sharing, and cooperation among all people using the roadway, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists. Poynton’s “double-roundel” design reduced the number of vehicle lanes, eliminated the traffic signals, made the curb lines less definitive, and greatly expanding walking areas.

The reconstruction was completed in 2012, and today, the double-roundel successfully accommodates the busy highway traffic while softening its impacts on the village. Traffic moves continuously and calmly, residents feel comfortable crossing the street, crash rates have fallen, and local businesses report widespread increases in foot traffic. All of this was accomplished without increases in congestion, important because the highway continues to handle regional passenger and freight traffic.

Implementing a successful shared-space street requires quality planning, design, and funding. In Poynton’s case, local leaders spent years planning the project and securing more than $6 million to finance it. They thought carefully about a variety of measures needed to make it a success, such as constructing gateways on the roads leading up to the junction compelling drivers to downshift from a highway mindset to urban driving.

Should Philadelphia begin to envision a shared-space future for some of our streets? What locations in our city might one day benefit from shared space design?

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Tidbit Tuesday — Capital Inventory, Part 1

Every Tuesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities (MOTU) posts a map or graphic that tells a story about transportation or utilities in the City of Brotherly Love. This week is the first of a three week series that will explore the capital inventory of infrastructure that exists in Philadelphia.  Today is a graphic illustrating the mileage of road that the City of Philadelphia maintains.

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Which street in Philadelphia is your favorite?

*Note the Following: This data is courtesy of the Philadelphia Streets Department. This mileage represents the mileage from the street centerline and does not represent lane miles.  Finally, the mileage from Philadelphia to Las Vegas is exactly 2,177 miles, as the crow flies.

What Streets do Bicyclists Take?

Check out this great map that Jon Sinker from the Philadelphia Department of Health put together showing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians that move through the city.

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This interactive map shows not only the number of bicyclists or pedestrians who pass by a specific point in the city, but also Philadelphia’s bike lane network and the locations of bike racks.

Take a closer look and see which streets are most used by bicyclists and pedestrians.  Streets with bike lanes, such as Pine, Spruce, and 22nd, are those most used by bicyclists, while the streets closest to City Hall appear to be the most popular with pedestrians.

The data was collected by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and they and the City are able to use this map to identify locations where active transportation is most prevalent. In addition to this, the map idenfities those areas in Philadelphia that are well used by pedestrians and bicyclists and could receive more investment.

Which streets in Philadelphia do you walk or bike on?

Be sure to explore some of The City of Philadelphia’s other great maps.

The Benefits of Red Light Cameras

Each year, more than 100,000 people are injured because someone runs a red light. This new video by the PPA shows how Red Light Cameras work and how they help improve safety. Watch this video and learn more about Philadelphia’s Red Light Camera system and how it has made crossing intersections from Center City to the Northeast safer for pedestrians and drivers.

Bike Lane Sweeping

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The Streets Department sweeper truck cleans the bike lane on the South Street Bridge

One of the many responsibilities of Philadelphia’s Streets Department is to maintain the sidewalks and roadways in the city, this includes laying down salt, plowing snow, and sweeping the street of trash.  In addition to sweeping the roadways, the Streets Department sweeps the bike lanes as well.

Street sweeping of bike lanes, sidewalks, and roadways is an important part of successfully developing Philadelphia’s Complete Streets.  Not only are Complete Streets about building and expanding the transportation network for all modes, but also about maintaining the existing complete streets for everyone’s safe and convenient use.  Street sweeping of the bike lanes is of vital importance to all bicyclists, because the bicycles are especially susceptible to flat tires from bits of glass, metal, or even hard plastics.

The sweeper truck on Pine Street.

On Pine Street.

Although many cyclists have advocated for more bike lane only sweeping, it is important to know that the Streets Department regularly sweeps 426 miles of bike lanes as part of their standard street sweeping operations and the most used bike lanes, such as Ben Franklin Parkway, Spruce Street, 13th Street, and Grays Ferry Avenue are swept every week.  Incorporating bike lane sweeping into the standard street cleaning allows the city to achieve two goals with fewer resources.  It’s just another way that Philly is doing more with less.

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On Grays Ferry Bridge

Complete Streets for Philadelphia!

Presentation1In 2009 Mayor Nutter recognized that for Philadelphia to accommodate the many different ways Philadelphians choose to travel, the City needed to treat every Streets as a Complete Street. Complete Streets are streets that accommodate all Philadelphians, whether they are on foot, bike, bus or in a car.  In June of 2009 he signed an Executive Order establishing a Complete Streets Policy for the City, which required all departments to:

  • Give full consideration to accommodation of the safety and convenience of all users
  • Balance the needs of all users in planning, design, construction, maintenance, and operation; and
  • Prioritize the safety of children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

To help fulfill the Mayor’s mandate, Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, in conjunction with the Streets Department developed a draft of the Complete Streets Handbook. After meeting with over 100 Philadelphians over ten public out reach meetings, MOTU and the Streets Department have released the final version of the Handbook

The Handbook does two things:

  • Clearly communicate design guidance to planners, engineers and architects
  • Help communities understand the City’s “tool box” for creating better streets

In December of 2012, City Council helped enshrine the policy and the handbook in the City’s every day business practices.  The Complete Streets Bill, Bill No. 12053200, mandated that projects that meet a certain threshold are subject to a Complete Streets review process by the Streets and Planning Departments. Projects that meet the threshold must fill out a Complete Streets Checklist when they submit their projects for review by the appropriate departmental unit. The Checklist ensures that all engineers, developers and architects have reviewed the Complete Streets Handbook and that their designs comply with the principles set forth in the handbook. The handbook and Checklists may all be found at on the Street Departments’ webpage.

The threshold outlined in Bill No. 12053200 states that projects that require Plan of Development Review, or projects that require Civic Design Review, all need to fill out the Complete Streets Design Checklist. Similarly projects that change the curb line AND either add a lay-by-lane, require a traffic study, affect a signalized intersection, or add or expand a driveway to 24 feet will also need to fill out the Complete Streets Design Checklist, to be submitted along with all plans.

Everybody plays a part in making Philadelphia’s streets complete streets, be it the Streets Department, community groups, or developers.  This new framework, which affects both public and private projects, ensures that Phialdelphia’s streets are completed, one street at a time.

Complete Streets Slow Traffic to Increase Activity

A comparison between a Conventional Auto-Centric Street and a Complete Street (Courtesy VTPI.org)

A comparison between a Conventional Auto-Centric Street and a Complete Street (Courtesy VTPI.org)

Last month, the City of Philadelphia passed a Complete Streets Bill, which mandates the use of the City’s Complete Streets handbook when developing property in order to design streets that will accommodate all transportation modes and increase safety. Complete Streets represent a shift from conventional street design in that accessibility is prioritized over mobility.  This means that the ability to reach destinations by multiple modes of transportation is given precedence over the ability to drive farther and faster.

A recent report by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute explores and identifies even more benefits of complete streets. In addition to greater safety and equity of transportation modes, Complete Streets can: improve the connectivity between streets, encourage active transportation mode shifts, reduce local air and noise pollution, promote smart growth land development, conserve individual energy use, improve neighborhood aesthetics, and increase activity of an area.  The report argues that complete streets and these benefits not only improve overall transportation, but also improve neighborhood livability.

Reducing traffic speeds increases roadway traffic capacity (Courtesy VTPI.org)

Reducing traffic speeds increases roadway traffic capacity (Courtesy VTPI.org)

A key component to achieving these goals is Complete Streets’ ability to lower the overall speed of traffic, which in turn increases roadway capacity.  This means that even though cars are moving slower, more vehicles can pass through an area.  Although this might seem counter intuitive, when vehicles are traveling at slower speeds, they also travel with less distance between each other, allowing for a greater total traffic.  In fact, the report shows that lowering vehicle speeds from 40mph to 25mph will increase total vehicles by approximately 400 vehicles per hour.  Additionally, a road analysis shows that a street which provides space for multiple modes of travel will increase the total number of people moving through an area simply because automobiles take up the most road space per person. Indeed, the analysis shows that automobiles take up approximately twice as much space as pedestrians and nearly five times as much space as buses on a per person basis.

Philadelphia has already taken the first step to creating more livable communities by passing the complete streets bill.  The Complete Streets Handbook uses a step-by-step process to help developers integrate Complete Streets into new projects.  First, the handbook is used to identify the street type that a particular project is located on, then the handbook describes the various street design interventions that will complete the street.  Finally, the Complete Streets checklist is incorporated into the review process, ensuring that development plans account for a project’s impact on the street and encourages safer and multi-modal transportation that meet the varying demands of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.

Read the Full Report –

Evaluating Complete Streets: The Value of Designing Roads for Diverse Modes, Users and Activities

Check-Out Philadelphia’s Complete Streets Handbook

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