Reform Hostile Streets

The City must create a roadway system that is safe and pleasant for bicycling and walking, rather than continuing the status quo of making major roads “car only” places.

Boulder’s major roads – the wider, higher speed, regional roads such as Broadway, Canyon, East Arapahoe, 28th, Iris, and Colorado – are so hostile because Boulder has strongly bought into the failed, outdated concept of the “street hierarchy” system of roadways. In this system, roads are designated as arterials, collectors, and local roads. Local, low-speed, low-volume neighborhood roads (relatively safe places for bicycling and walking) feed traffic into collector roads (which are more unsafe due to higher speeds and larger widths), which feed into arterial roads (which are the most dangerous, high-speed, very wide roads). Because of the hierarchy of smaller roads feeding larger and larger roads (in the same manner as a watershed, where smaller streams feed larger and larger creeks and rivers), the larger (arterial) roads often become congested because they must handle car trips from throughout the community. Similarly, larger rivers often flood because they must handle water flowing from throughout the watershed. In addition to increasing the likelihood of congestion, the road hierarchy system also and inevitably creates roadways that are not complete streets. They are too high-speed, too wide, and too hostile for safe, comfortable walking or bicycling. The progressive, sustainable road system eliminates these two problems by maximizing the connection of roadways (rather than using dead ends or cul-de-sacs), as well as making major streets more complete (rather than hostile, car-only places) in order to more evenly (and fairly) distribute car trips throughout the entire roadway system. That leads to less congestion and safer streets throughout the roadway system – not just on the local roads.

Building expensive overpasses and underpasses for crossing major roads in Boulder — as has been done many times — is emblematic of the car-only nature of such roads. Besides the extremely high cost of such interventions, these facilities also reduce the urgency of redesigning them to be safer, more compatible with residential and retail development, and to be Complete Streets.

About Dom Nozzi

Urban designer, Complete Streets instructor, smart growth specialist, town planner, walkable streets and bikeable streets and trails specialist, writer, editor, public speaker, world adventurer, skier, kayaker, SCUBA diver, bicyclist, hiker, dancer, book reader, cook, urbanist.
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