Talk Explains How to Make Walkable Cities

By: Ruth Morton Email
By: Ruth Morton Email

September 4, 2014

Why and how do you make a city walkable?

City planner and author Jeff Speck talked walkability Thursday evening t at the Jefferson School in Charlottesville. Charlottesville Tomorrow hosted the event.

Speck spoke, answered questions, and signed his books.

He said making walking easier improves cities' safety, health, the environment, and the economy.

"The economists have made it very clear that walkable cities are much more efficient, and that people actually want them, and want to pay more to be in them, but, in fact, there haven't been enough provided for all the demand that's there," said Speck after the talk.

Some features Speck discussed that increase walkability are thinner streets (which can be created adding bike lanes to a street), parking meters with prices tiered in correlation to desirability, and swapping stop signs for stoplights at lesser-trafficked intersections,

Speck also weighed in on the West Main Street plans.

"I'm concerned about the plans for West Main, which are very skillful, but they seem to be answering the question, 'how can we have a great streetscape for West Main?' as opposed to 'what's the most efficient way to have it do as much good as it can?' particularly by restriping rather than rebuilding."

Speck added that he had only studied West Main for an hour, so it wasn't an official plan.

He suggested parallel parking on each side of the street, two driving lanes, and buffered two-way bike lane.

"It's a really important biking corridor, and for the bikes to be protected is really important," he said.

He recommended three main changes to the current plans. First, he suggested creating a buffered, two-way bike lane to protect bikers. The parked cars would serve as the buffer. The bike lanes would run in between the cars and the curb. Speck also suggested keeping all the trees, and maintaining or increasing parallel parking on both sides of the street to help businesses.

During the meeting, he also suggested not building planed medians in the street.

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