Comment 38455

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 25, 2010 at 10:45:20

It comes down to a question of what we want.

For me, two-way conversion isn't just about making the street more livable, although that's certainly a major part. It's also about transforming a road from a thoroughfare optimized for fast travel to a macro-destination into a local street optimized for direct travel to a micro-destination.

By macro-destination I mean "the other side of town". If I'm in West Hamilton, Main Street gets me to East Hamilton nicely. It moves me through the city very efficiently.

(Just yesterday I had to drive through the downtown and I was struck again at how effortless it is to ease onto Main Street and let the flow of traffic bear me along. It's like riding a canoe downstream in a wide, deep river.)

However, if I want to reach, say, a building at the corner of Main and St. Clair, the road is suddenly not so good. The same effortless one-way flow makes it surprisingly difficult to get over to the bank - sorry, curb - and stop.

It's even worse if you want to get to, say, the corner of King and Wentworth. Not only can you not approach the corner straight along King (from the west), but also you can't approach the corner straight along Wentworth (from the south).

Instead, you have to approach the corner on a different street, overshoot (and figuring out how far to go - difficult if you have an address but not an intersection), cut left on a cross-street going north, and then backtrack to your destination. Once you get there, you still face the same problem of trying to resist the flow of traffic and stop.

That's what I mean about our thoroughfare system making it more difficult to reach micro-destinations (like the corner of King and Wentworth).

I recently commented that when I moved to Hamilton, I at first hated one-way streets, and then learned to accept them, and finally came to hate them again. I know I'm not alone in this pattern, and I think this is why:

  1. I hated the one-way streets at first because of the micro-destination issue. It was frustrating as hell trying to reach anywhere specific.

  2. I learned to accept them when I gave up trying to reach micro-destinations downtown by car. This is why downtown businesses have a hard time surviving.

  3. I finally came to hate them again as I came to realize just how much local micro-vitality we're sacrificing to accommodate express traffic to macro-destinations across town.

This is what jumped out at me from Michelle Martin's recent piece, Walkability? We Can't Manage Drivebility.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2010-02-25 09:46:31

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