Long Beach Puts Roads on a Diet
In our Transportation Issue, we pinpointed the idea of a "livable street"—streets that are not suited primarily for automobiles, but for a harmonic relationship among cars, bikes, plants, pedestrians, and storefronts. In 2009, Long Beach began the first of a series of projects with this in mind. Michael Bohn, who works with Studio One Eleven, put the road at First Street and Linden Avenue on a diet of sorts, redistributing its girth to extend sidewalks.
Bohn describes the benefits of his plan for sidewalks and pedestrians:
The new, permanent curb extensions at First Street and Linden Avenue expand the pedestrian realm over 3,000 square feet, the size of two average coffee shops or a medium-sized restaurant. Besides outdoor dining, there is now room for landscaping (using drought-tolerant plants), street furniture such as benches, sidewalk paving patterns, and trash receptacles. Businesses use the expanded sidewalk for additional bike racks and outdoor sales displays. The extra space has cleared existing sidewalk area for thorough movement while expanding and making prominent the outdoor activity at these businesses.
Plus, as urban planners have figured out, narrowing or closing roads can actually speed up traffic flow. In Long Beach, reducing the amount of space between curbs allows pedestrians to cross more quickly, so that cars can pass through faster as well. Check out Streetsblog, a forum for discussing livable street projects, and the rest of Bohn's piece at Planetizen to learn more about how trimming road space can help everyone on the streets co-exist.
Image by Studio One Eleven via Planetizen.