Designing neighborhoods in Dallas which encourage more walking.
Is there a possibility Dallas could eventually become a city known for its walkable neighborhoods? This would, of course, be something that requires a great dealing of planning and preparations in order to make it a reality. It must begin with good sidewalks and streets that are easy to navigate, but citizens of Dallas are ready to see some progress – as is the North Texas District Council of the Urban Land Institute.
The key to creating walkability lies in creating destinations that are within close proximity to one another and not just the construction of sidewalks. One thing to keep in mind here is even though sidewalk amenities are important, they lose importance if there is no destination for people to walk to.
In recent years, Dallas has felt the need to create walkable neighborhoods which would allow residents to have the convenience of shopping, dining, and relaxing without traveling far from home.
Developing a plan.
According to a telephone survey that was conducted by the Complete Streets Design manual, 68 percent of Dallas residents feel the local economy would benefit if they had the ability to walk or ride a bike to various destinations. In fact, 88 percent of residents stated they would drive an additional five minutes just to have the convenience of walking and riding a bicycle. There were 518 respondents to this random survey that was conducted in August 2011.
One thing it’s important for everyone to remember is that simply wanting something will not make it happen. Dallas is like most American cities, and needs to go through the process of reversing many years of policies that were originally designed to accommodate motor vehicle traffic. One thing is for certain: it will be necessary to make changes in attitude and city zoning policies in order to succeed in the creation of more walkable Dallas neighborhoods.
The analogy behind having walkable districts is the belief that when people have destinations that are both interesting and close to home, they will be more likely to walk there in spite of the conditions of the sidewalks. A perfect example of this exists in Dallas’ West Village where it is often possible to see two-level sidewalks with lamp posts, benches, kiosks, and posts that often require visitors to walk single file.
There is also the problem of having enough parking to achieve commercial success. In West Village, parking garages that are not visible from the streets are in use. Many streets were converted to one-way (as are those in many other cities) in order to move traffic more quickly.
The current line of thinking is to convert some parts of our streets back into two-way streets, which may slow the flow of traffic and may it much easier for pedestrians. In fact, Downtown Dallas is in the process of, or has already reverted the following streets back to two-way.
- Akard Street from Commerce Street to Pacific Avenue.
- Federal Street from Akard Street to Ervay Street.
- Patterson Street from Field Street to Akard Street.
- Field Street from Pacific Avenue to Wood Street.
- Houston Street from Elm Street to Young Street.
By creating the CityDesign Studio for reviewing proposals for development, Dallas can now encourage walkability during the very early stages. This means they have the opportunity to proceed with the development over the next five to ten years.
The effect on car-vs-pedestrian accidents.
One thing (the most important thing) developers have to keep in mind as they plan for walkable neighborhoods is safety. With an increase in pedestrians, the potential for an auto-pedestrian accident also increases. There is a need for some serious planning first in order to ascertain the safety of the streets that surround the areas where people walk.