Monday, May 4, 2015

Woonerf fine downtown but not outside the core

Art showing imaginary curbless street in downtown London.
Three years ago The London Free Press interviewed Bob Usher, president of the Downtown London Business Association and Joel Adams, a Downtown London board member. Both were in favour of making Dundas Street a "woonerf" or a shared street.

A shared street integrates pedestrian activities and vehicular traffic. No segregating sidewalks and no curbs are allowed. The shared street approach has proven to be very adaptable and examples can now be found around the globe.

Fast forward to today and the paper is reporting that a quiet street, where kids play road hockey, where car traffic in an hour can be counted on one hand, a street that has existed for decades without sidewalks and without complaints, must now lose some trees, some front yard space and some driveway length to make room for a sidewalk. This is happening over the protests of the residents.

A suburban street with neither curbs nor sidewalks in action.
The neighbourhood ward councillor, Stephen Turner, is pushing for sidewalks. According to the paper, he believes the city’s newest urban planning approach, ReThink London, demands walkable streets, and to Turner walkable mean sidewalks.

If ReThink London was about anything, it was about thinking outside the Southwest Ontario urban planning box. True ReThinking leads to thinking about woonerfs, home zones, naked streets. Mr. Turner is missing the core ReThink message.

Studies show a drop in the number of traffic accidents when a naked street replaces a street with curbs and sidewalks. Installed in suitable locations, naked streets are both walkable and safe.

What will the sidewalk on Auburn Ave. cost? What would a naked street tailored to the needs of Auburn Avenue residents cost? Let's put on those ReThink London thinking caps and come up with an original solution.

One final caveat: a successful naked street demands consultation. Naked streets are not created over the objections of residents.

Roads without sidewalks can encourage a rich mix of uses.

Comment left on Shift London Website: Moving London Forward – Time to ReThink Mobility

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