Monday, June 3, 2013

Making Ashley Drive a complete street?

There's an emerging movement towards "complete streets" in Tampa Bay.  Complete streets are beautiful, and more suitable for all modes of transportation -- walking, biking, transit, etc. And cars.

But, typically, there is only so much space for a road, so there's some trade offs.

Do you want lots of beautiful landscaping, or do you want it to be maintained for a affordable cost?

Do you the road to be most efficient for moving people where they want to go, or do you prefer having lots of "choices"?

If you add a lane for lightly used bicycling, and remove a lane for cars, have you helped the community?

These are just some of the trade offs one must be aware of... and eventually make, if we want complete streets.  It's not always worked out so well here Hillsboroough County.  Last year, the county wanted to cut down beautiful trees and landscaping in Lutz, on US-41, since it was getting too costly to maintain.  And that was just some median landscaping.  At least there's been some ongoing discussion to save the trees since the county wanted to cut them down.  [Disclosure... we live in Lutz].

Median trees in Lutz marked for destruction
The Trib weighed in today on the subject, since City of Tampa wants to make Ashley Drive more green, beautiful, etc.
There is much to like about Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa. Its sloping expanse of grass and proximity to the river make it an appealing venue for organized events and casual strolls alike.

Getting to the park can be far less appealing. Visitors who don’t park in the garages west of Ashley Drive are left to negotiate four lanes of two-way traffic, risking life and limb. The same is true for workers and residents who leave their offices and homes for lunch or exercise.

Which is why we embrace Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s plan to slow traffic on Ashley Drive, with one proviso: It doesn’t worsen what is already an annoying backup for downtown commuters on most days of the week.
Are there any options to improve traffic flow for the 30,000 vehicles a day on Ashley?  Silence...
Under the plan the city is implementing, the Ashley Drive lanes leading into and out of downtown Tampa will be squeezed to make room for parking spaces and bicycle lanes. Altering the road’s design is expected to cause motorists to slow down, making it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
So let's acknowledge that vast vast majority of the 30,000 vehicles per day will not be converted to bicyclists any time soon.  The traffic will necessarily slow down.  How does this help commuters?
Buckhorn says the changes are not expected to worsen the commute. He points out that the changes are supported by the state Department of Transportation, which would not have signed off on a plan that impedes vehicular traffic.

We certainly hope so.
We'll need a little more than hope.   But the design its telling us something completely different.

We need to add better, safer options for transit, including bicycles.  We biked 31 miles yesterday, so consider us cycling fans.  We bike mostly on trails, so we don't have to deal with the cars. Its a safety issue for us, and the roads around here should be made better and safer... for bikers, and cars.  But reducing vehicle access, creating congestion only increases risks to bikers and cars, and makes the vast majority of car only drivers who never convert bikes more frustrated and angry at bikers.  That's not a good formula for long term success.

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