Closing some street lanes to create a more walkable city: suburban Walnut Creek eyes change on downtown street
Monday, July 12th, 2010 at 12:06 pm in Uncategorized.
Walnut Creek is beginning to discuss a big-time move in the effort to make cities more pedestrian friendly: closing two of the four traffic lanes along three blocks of Mt. Diablo Boulevard in the heart of the downtown. The idea of the street narrowing is to create more space for outdoor dining and strolling.
This proposal in early discussions, as reported by Elisabeth Nardi in the Contra Costa Times, is worth following. This could affect your transportation if you live or travel in Walnut Creek. Even if you’re not a Walnut Creek regular, the story is noteworthy because it plugs into a debate about whether we need to remake American cities and life styles to be less dependent on cars.
The idea is controversial. Messing with traffic lanes can madden some drivers and business owners - especially in a city where traffic congestion is a hot topic. “Worst. Worst idea ever. What about the people who live in Walnut Creek?” said one Times reader in an online comment about the story. “This street is already a relative nightmare for drivers in peak times,” said another reader.
City officials are going to approach this proposal with caution.
Some urban planners and others will cheer this idea as a way to loosen people’s addictions to their cars, and provide more centrally located space for dining outdoors and strolling around. One Times reader suggested the city close all car access to all lanes on Mt. Diablo Boulevard between California Boulevard and Broadway so the street section can be used for bicyclists and pedestrians.
When I strolled through downtown Walnut Creek Friday night after eating dinner in a restaurant there, I was reminded how the city’s downtown sidewalks are flush with foot traffic compared to many suburban downtowns, especially in Contra Costa County. But the downtown also has plenty of car traffic. Walnut Creek’s popularity makes it a logical place for the street narrowing idea to emerge.
“We are supportive of the thought,” Walnut Creek Mayor Sue Rainey said last week of the proposal. ”But there are a lot of people who will say, ‘That’s how I get home at night.’”
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