Complete Streets is a great thing – a real sea change in designing our streets for people rather than cars. But, unfortunately, sometimes we still get the engineering mindset when it comes to deploying complete streets policy:
In West Allis, a working-class Milwaukee suburb, the state proposed adding bike lanes to a six-lane highway that is one of the biggest commercial corridors in town. Many of the stores, fast-food restaurants and hotels either run right up to the street or rely on a single row of parking there. To accommodate the new bike lanes, the state would have had to widen the road by 10 feet. Some designs called for even more land to be taken. The city estimated the expansions would require the conversion of $10 million to $30 million of real estate into the highway right of way. “When we saw this, we were horrified,” says Peter Daniels, the city’s principal design engineer.
A couple of thoughts on this. There is no way that a six-lane stroad is hospitable to anyone other than cars. Putting a bike lane on this road is a dereliction of public safety. That said, if you’re going to put bike lanes on a six-lane highway, why don’t you put it on a road diet? Take a lane out on each side, or narrow the widths of the existing lanes, create a boulevard and slow traffic down through smart design. Design the road from the perspective of a person trying to cross the street on foot.