I had the opportunity to attend this year's 2015 Rocky Mountain City Summit.  Among the morning keynote speakers was Jeff Speck, a city planner and national consultant.  Jeff has a TED talk about what defines a walkable city, but at the RMCS, he took his talk a step further and discussed implementation strategies. 

Walkability is tied to a multitude of factors and updates to the public ream/pedestrian environment can seem to imply costly construction work.  However, among the most effective and cheap initial measures to greater walkability is to reprioritize how we stripe our streets.  When drive lanes get wider, speeds get higher and pedestrian life dwindles.  Jeff Speck confirmed this with data relating to both safety and crime rates.  Similar trends hold true for one-way vs. two way traffic.  Something intangible called "friction" occurs between drivers heading in opposite directions and they mutually slow down.  This reduced speed leads to safer pedestrian environments and lower crime (probably because the perception of 'eyes on the street' is more present at slower speeds).  

When you think about these phenomena, Jeff Speck recommends that all roads with speeds below 45 mph be designed with a 10-foot drive lane as a maximum and, where possible, streets should be two-way.  Finally, traffic engineers should pay much closer attention to traffic count versus road sizing. In many downtown areas where traffic is distributed through a grid network, the average traffic count on a given street may yield that the street can actually be quite narrow despite being in a dense area.  Denver's downtown and my own neighborhood of Harvey Park could certainly benefit from a recalibration of our street widths and lane organization.   Maybe just a more progressive striping strategy could make the biggest first steps forward.

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