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Entries in Mobility (4)


20 is Plenty and Other Crazy Thoughts

Earlier this year in an online forum on Reddit, I laid out my quick list about what the top transportation needs are for Roswell.  My list in no order of importance and applicable to most cities was as follows:

  • Bring MARTA Rail to North Fulton
  • Increase Street Connectivity
  • Remove Reversible Lanes
  • Build More Roundabouts
  • Drop speed on ALL residential streets to 20 mph
  • Build the Roswell Loop

Most of my suggestions focused on increasing transportation options and improving safety.  Interestingly, the one that got questioned was the point about dropping speeds on residential streets to 20 mph.  When I indicated that my rationale was for safety reasons, one commenter insinuated that this isn’t necessary because we don’t have a pedestrian death problem in our residential areas.  I agree and we should feel fortunate for that.  However, I think many a homeowner can point to multiple occasions where they have encountered drivers speeding recklessly on neighborhood streets.

Speed has a logarithmically negative effect on survival rates for pedestrians involved in collisions with cars.  A 10% increase in vehicle speed increases pedestrian fatality risk by 40-45%.  Data shows that when a pedestrian is hit by a car traveling at 20mph, they have a 95% chance of survival.  However, as the speed increases, the survival rate plummets.  When a car is traveling 40 mph, the pedestrian survival rate drops to just 15%.  This is just plain physics.  Doubling speed results in the required stopping distance quadrupling and the kinetic energy absorbed at impact is also fourfold.   We may not have a death problem here in North Fulton but nationwide, more than 30,000 people are killed in car crashes annually and an increasing percentage of those are pedestrians.  Ten times that number are seriously injured every year.  The costs to society are staggering but we accept it as a necessary evil to support our auto-dependence.

Slowing down to 20 mph is a radical idea that would increase safety in our communities for pedestrians and cyclists alike.  That said, simply lowering speed limits isn’t a panacea.  Drivers generally drive at the speed they feel safe regardless of the posted speed limit.  This comfort zone, the speed that feels safe, can also be called the design speed or the speed at which the road was designed to be safely navigable.  The philosophy of wider, safer, faster holds true here.  The wider the road is, the safer it feels at higher speeds.  This counterintuitively increases speeds which conversely decreases safety for everyone involved.  

We’ve all lived in or driven through residential subdivisions with streets wide enough to fit parked cars on each curb and two active lanes.  The problem with this is that the streets in suburban residential areas are rarely every fully lined with parked cars.  The end result of this is a dangerous design with wide expanses of asphalt that encourage teenagers to test their limits and rushed commuters to push the gas.  This would happen in this environment regardless of whether the posted limit was 30 mph, 25 mph or 20 mph.  It’s just not conducive to a slow drive.

That said, a 20 is Plenty campaign such as those that are having great success across Europe and the UK would be a bold step to create safer and more walkable cities.  The movement is slowly making its way to the US and is now under consideration in several cities and towns in the northeast.  New York City is considering it and some people have even gone around town putting up their own signs on light posts.  There is also research indicating that slower street speeds are linked to more social connections, a stronger sense of community, higher property values and increased walking and biking.  

It almost sounds like a no brainier.  So, this is how I would propose phasing in a 20 is Plenty campaign: 

  • Step 1 (year 1-3).. Give all neighborhoods and subdivisions the option to adopt a 20 mph limit.
  • Step 2 (year 4).. Adopt on all roads that have residential as  > 50% of their frontage and on any road that fronts a school or park for a quarter mile in each direction.
  • Step 3 (year 1-10 and beyond).. Re-engineer streets over time to narrow lanes and install street calming devices that would encourage slower speeds.

The next time you’re driving through a neighborhood remember that 20 is Plenty.


Weekly Top 5 - Homeownership, Trickle Up, Kasim Reed, Biking & Walking, Bad Architecture

Here's what we found this week out there.. 
What's up in Roswell...
This Tuesday, the final public input meeting will be held for the Holcomb Bridge Road Corridor Study from 5 to 7 pm at the Holiday Inn at 909 Holcomb Bridge Road.
The Groveway Architectural Design Guidelines were released.  Check out the document here.  This document clarifies a lot of the questions that were found in the hybrid form-based code document.
Top 5 Articles of the Week

Homeownership Means Little to Economic Growth - The Atlantic Cities

OUCH! The truth hurts.

Robert Shiller of Yale University documents that from "1890 to 1990, the rate of return on residential real estate was just about zero after inflation." Other studies have shown how America’s historic over-investment in housing has distorted its economy, leading to under-investment in technology and skills. Or as Nobel prize-winning Columbia University economist Edmund Phelps bluntly states it: "To recover and grow again, America needs to get over its 'house passion.'"

Tools for Trickle Up Economics - Place Shakers

This article made it to the top 5 simply because of the quote below. Think of how many worthless buildings we have dotting the landscape that were not beautiful when they were constructed and are decaying now with little hope of ever becoming commercially viable again.  Some of the solutions to the conundrum that the post recommends are Form-Based Codes, Updating Infrastructure Standards and ceding more control to localities.

I hope that you of San Diego, whose city is just entering on its great period of development, will recognize what so many old communities have failed to recognize. That beauty is not only well worthwhile for its own sake, but that it is valuable commercially. Keep your waterfront and develop it so that it may add to the beauty of your city. Do not let a number of private individuals. . . make it hideous with buildings, and then force your children to pay them an exorbitant sum to get rid of the ugliness they have created. - Teddy Roosevelt

Mayor: Conversation over T-SPLOST too ‘esoteric’ - Creative Loafing

I can’t tell you how much I loathe the conversation going on about the transportation tax right now.  The opening paragraph of this article sums up my thoughts pretty nicely below... no ned to say more (but I will in this month’s Roswell Current).

Bickering over the number of lanes on a road project. Debating whether the Atlanta Beltline will reduce a Cherokee County soccer mom's commute time. Or, for that matter, if a Sugarloaf Parkway expansion will help a Little Five Points barista have better access to transit.

House Republicans Ramp Up War on Safe Biking and Walking - Sierra Club Compass

It’s no secret that we like walkability and bikability at NUR.  We recognize that not all areas are walkable and bikable and accept that they never will be.  Cars are necessary tools just like a hammer and chainsaw but I generally don’t use a hammer or a chainsaw for every task that I do.  That being said, our national legislature continues to pursue a ‘cars only’ agenda.. the four bullets below is all you need to know from this Sierra Club post.


  • Nationwide, biking and walking account for almost 12% of all trips, yet biking and walking infrastructure receives less than 2% of all federal transportation funding.
  • But as Senate and House negotiators enter the final three weeks of negotiations over a transportation bill, House Republicans are demanding that the Senate drop provisions that will make biking and walking safer across the country
  • One particularly egregious demand from House Republican negotiators is that the Senate eliminate the Safe Routes to School program.
  • 83% of Americans support maintaining or increasing funding for biking and walking, including 80% of Republicans. 


25 Buildings to Demolish Right Now - ca Home & Design

I agree with most of the buildings on this list.. most notably the Boston City Hall.  Yikes!  So, what buildings in Roswell need to be “Demolished Right Now?”  I’d have to say the AT&T building on Oak Street is on the list.  How about the entire south east quadrant of the HBR/400 interchange? 


NUR Top5 - Traffic, Soccer, Entertainment Districts, Walkable Urbanism

We're once again trying something new here.  The plan is to post this weekly.  Each week, I will be sifting through the noise out there (I already do that) to bring you the top five stories of the week related to new urbanism, complete neighborhoods and Roswell.  First though, please check out my most recent article in the Roswell Current, The Elusive Neighborhood Grocery Store.  In no particular order, here’s what we have this week.

Chicagos Ambitious Plan for Zero Traffic Fatalities - The Atlantic Cities

Chicago wants to eliminate all pedestrian, bicycle and overall traffic crash related fatalities by 2050.  I’d love to see Roswell take on a challenge like this.  We should start by lowering all of our current 25 mph speed limits to 20 mph.  The 20 is Plenty movement is a great one that will reduce deaths worldwide if it can take root.  I also think our obsession with adding more and more traffic signs to our roads is counterintuitive.  People tend to drive more recklessly when they feel they don’t need to anticipate and pay attention.  Road signs and safety features have been proven in some cases to reduce driver awareness or increase complacency and in many cases have no impact on safety (they just make our city uglier).

Urban Entertainment Districts: Blocks Where No One Has Fun -

Reading this, you can’t help but conjure up images of Atlantic Station, Lindberg Center, the proposed Avalon development in Alpharetta and Buckhead Atlanta development in Buckhead.  Although, not exactly what the article is referring to, they are close enough as they are manufactured environments devised primarily for corporate profit.  Atlantic Station and Lindberg Center have a distinctly plastic feel.  The jury is still out on Avalon and Buckhead Atlanta.  There are dozens of other spots that feel authentic such as Canton Street, Va Highlands, Inman Park, Downtown Decatur, and the old Buckhead Village... that grew up incrementally.  I think incremental growth is the key.  Roswell should be wary of any situation where one developer is planning on developing a huge tract of land all at once to create a place... You run the risk of that place being distinctly corporate and not distinctly Roswell.  (now, all of the these corporate developments are good but they likely will never reach the greatness of an incrementally incubated environment)

Arizona DOT Study: Compact, Mixed-Use Development Leads to Less Traffic - StreetsBlog

This one is no secret but the article has some great data.  It is applicable to Roswell primarily in the Groveway area as it is the only area in our city that has a true grid system with potential to be built out as a Mixed-Use environment (if you assume our NIMBYs will continue to block any action at the HBR/400 interchange).  The study basically concludes that as net residential density increases, daily vehicle miles traveled per capita decreases.  It talks about the added benefits of the grid distributing traffic more evenly than the sprawl arterial system as well as the park-once ability when visitors come to a mixed-use area.  There isn’t a need to go back to the car to drive to the next parking lot over.  Why?  Because it’s more interesting to walk there.

Atlanta Needs a New Football Stadium, But Not For the Falcons - Curbed Atlanta

I had originally thought this article in the AJC addressing recent Stadium cost overruns and overzealous revenue projections would be appropriate for the Top 5.  However, I loved the idea from Curbed Atlanta that we need a soccer stadium instead of a new NFL stadium.  Recruiting an MLS team to Atlanta would be big.  Curbed thinks the right spot for a soccer specific stadium would be along Northside Dr by the Atlanta Water Works.  However, I think our own 400/HBR intersection would be a really sweet spot.  Roswell, could stake a claim to a sports franchise and it would then make even more sense for a MARTA connection in Roswell.  We have a large Latino community and the northern burbs are ripe with young soccer talent that would love to attend the games.  The Real Salt Lake team is located in the suburb of Sandy which is very similar to North Fulton in demographic... it’s worth a shot.

Now Coveted: A Walkable, Convenient Place - NY Times Opinion 

We’ve written about Christopher Lienberger here before.  He basically coined the dichotomy of Walkable Urbanism vs. Drivable Suburban development.  He makes the case as we have as well that walkable urbanism is spreading beyond our large city centers and actually into our smaller cities and towns.  This is mainly due to a change in preference amongst our two largest generations.  This is nothing new but reaffirms virtually everything that NUR is about.  Roswell, needs to get in gear quickly to meet the coming storm of demand/need for walkable urbanism.  


Thought of the Week: On Car Ownership

The smarter companies are jumping feet-first into this brave new world where people don’t measure their worth by the amount of chrome they haul around. By 2026, a recent survey of global auto execs estimates that a quarter or more of urban inhabitants in some parts of the world will spurn personal cars in favor of “mobility services” such as car sharing. “The world is moving from car ownership to car usership,” the study says.

When I look at how much I pay each month for my car, I really start to wonder if this type of arrangement wouldn't be that bad.  Unfortunately, car sharing in the burbs would be a bit difficult and MARTA service keeps getting cut further.  

Check out the full article on Grist.