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Thread: The Evil Stroad

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    The Evil Stroad

    Another Atlantic Cities blog post... this time around the effort of Chuck Marohn, who in this video outlines pretty clearly why we look to Complete Streets to resolve some pretty gnarly street design issues.



    The STROAD design -- a street/road hybrid -- is the futon of transportation alternatives. Where a futon is a piece of furniture that serves both as an uncomfortable couch and an uncomfortable bed, a STROAD moves cars at speeds too slow to get around efficiently but too fast to support productive private sector investment. The result is an expensive highway and a declining tax base.
    I guess most of this is pretty straightforward.. but I'm pretty sure there are lots of these designs being built today with the intention of moving traffic relatively quickly.

    There must be some reason why this happens.

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    Pedalin' Erry Day lasauge's Avatar
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    I generally agree with what guys like Marohn and James Kunstler have to say about infrastructure, but in this case I think it's too simple to condemn all "stroads" as bad. Boulevards aren't bad and those are essentially stroads with low traffic in residential areas. And if a stroad is bordered on both sides by low traffic residential streets (go on Google maps and look at US Highway 24 where it goes through the city of Woodland Park, or Colorado Avenue through Old Colorado City for examples), they can function effectively for all kinds of road users and property owners.

    Sure, when an entire city is built around stroads that produces all the problems he points out, but even for us car-free folks they're not the worst possible option available. Which would you rather deal with: a 4-lane road with 30-50mph traffic with parallel parking and frequent stoplights, or 40-60mph traffic on a 6-lane road (plus median - but no shoulders) with crossings spaced a half-mile or even further apart? Because the latter is what we have to contend with here in the Springs on nearly every trip, and I'd take a stroad over riding on an "arterial road"any day of the week.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I enjoyed that article and was going to post it if gerv hadn't. It made me look at streets and roads a little differently. I live a few yards from a stroad. Local activists, including myself, have long been trying to transform it into a street. Those efforts have been somewhat effective--recently a striped bike lane was added. But I almost always continue to ride on parallel side streets instead.

    Now Marohn is making me rethink the whole thing. Maybe we should give in and make the stroad into a road. That is, make it a high speed road mainly for cars, and direct pedestrians and cyclists to the adjacent streets. I feel like a traitor saying that!

    However, it isn't going to be easy, and might be impossible, to change most stroads into roads.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasauge View Post
    And if a stroad is bordered on both sides by low traffic residential streets (go on Google maps and look at US Highway 24 where it goes through the city of Woodland Park, or Colorado Avenue through Old Colorado City for examples), they can function effectively for all kinds of road users and property owners.
    One problem is that the stroad tends to divide the neighborhood. Almost impossible for peds to get across. The layout also requires business to maintain parking lots that do not really add much visually or economically.

    I agree that these aren't the worst setups for a cyclists... particularly if the speed limit is low. However, what makes it good for cars and okay for bikes may be the whole problem. One of the reasons you are navigating with a bicycle is that it's a long distance between stores and services.

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    Je pose, donc je suis.
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    This is a trend for more than just roads -- er -- streets. Businesses demand high-visibility (is Jiffy Lube going to build on a "street"?) but planning councils demand "livibility" and other vague** qualities. So you end up with nice, wide sidewalks that no one uses and attractive street lights.

    There is a new shopping center in Charlottesville, Stonefield, which is a different manifestation of the same concept: suppoosedly a 'livable' community with condos and shopping, but it ended up being a bizarre, faux-downtown feel with horrible parking. You're welcome to ride you bike, of course -- you can choose between the 8-lane highway or the 6-lane thoroughfare to get there.

    **Livibility may not be vague to some of you, but I don't think most planning councils get it.

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    Senior Member Smallwheels's Avatar
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    How nice of him to explain how things should be without actually showing how stroads were successfully converted. Who made up the term stroad?

    That seven lane wide space was interesting to see. It showed that it is definitely too wide for pedestrians to cross without a traffic light.

    I was at an intersection in Helena Montana late at night. To cross using my bicycle I pressed the crosswalk button to signal the light to change. When I got the green I began to ride across. The light turned yellow before I was half way across. It was red by the time I reached the other side. A pedestrian wouldn't have made it across in time. Simple things like that need to be fixed.

    If cities really want to create streets and get rid of seven lane or wider roadways they could sell the middle section of the road to developers and construct more businesses. They could leave one lane of traffic on each side or just have one lane of traffic on one side.

    The French Quarter in New Orleans has many streets that criss cross. Most of them are one way. It is almost too difficult to drive on them when there are many pedestrians around. Cars creep along slowly because there are so many stop signs. It is almost better to walk. Those shops along the way do get business but only because the area is full of tourists. I know of just one tiny grocery store there. It remains busy. The isles are so small that a mobility scooter and another person just couldn't pass one another. All of the remaining businesses are highly specialized or restaurants. T-shirt and poster shops seem to survive.

    In Helena Montana there is a walking mall. It is wide enough for two lanes of traffic with parking on one side. Instead it is paved with bricks and concrete sidewalks. There are islands with plants and kiosk like bulletin boards, and benches. It is two blocks long with a regular street dividing it. This is another place where I find it hard to believe businesses survive. The foot traffic is so low that it boggles my mind that some businesses remain there. Perhaps they succeed because there are so few choices in town. Just because some place is walkable doesn't mean businesses will thrive there.

    Boulevards can succeed but shopping malls are more efficient. Shopping malls in the suburbs severely decreased the downtown shopping in New Orleans. I really don't think there are solutions to restructuring existing cities other than adding better cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Unless a city is willing to knock down whole city blocks at a time in order to re-engineer them, the way we shop and travel won't change much.
    Smallwheels

    Take my stuff, please. I have way too much. My current goal is to have all of my possessions fit onto a large bicycle trailer. Really.

  7. #7
    Senior Member loky1179's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    .. but I'm pretty sure there are lots of these designs being built today with the intention of moving traffic relatively quickly.

    There must be some reason why this happens.
    STROADS!! I hate them!

    Until I first read "The Geography of Nowhere" by Jim Kunstler, I was like Neo in the Matrix . . . I knew there was something wrong with the world . . but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. When your surrounding reality is an ugly strip of burger joints, video stores and bigbox stores, it is difficult to imagine anything different. But we once had something different . . before society was reconfigured from serving humans to serving the automobile.

    If you look at a classic main street - for example, downtown Steamboat Springs, CO, or downtown Red Lodge, MT, to name a couple I am familiar with - not only do we not build infrastructure like this anymore, it is ILLEGAL to build infrastructure like this. In large part due to parking requirements. Zoning requirements now generally specify how many parking spaces any new construction must provide. The classic mainstreet did not provide any, other than the few spots on the street directly in front of the business.

    The classic Main Street USA is now illegal, because it does not sufficiently accommodate the automobile. No wonder then that our roads are designed to accommodate ONLY the automobile.

    The term Stroad is is perfect - not sure if Marohn coined this. I've read some of his stuff on http://www.streets.mn/.

    The problem with stroads is not that they exist, it is that they have become the default design for all suburban development in the US for the last 30 years. This is one of those things that affects much of the US population on a daily basis, and yet it has NEVER been mentioned in a political campaign. These decisions are made at the bureaucratic level by city managers and planners. The infrastructure just "happens" and no one quite knows why it happens like it does.

    The effect on bicyclists is to push us off the roads. To name one example in my memory. France avenue in Edina MN. Runs by Southdale shopping center in Edina, MN, the very first indoor shopping mall in the USA. Up until 1980, France Ave was a four lane suburban street. A busy street to be sure, but it had a shoulder, and I used to ride it regularly to Bush Lake park in Bloomington. It was reconfigured in about 1981, from a four lane street with shoulders to a six lane STROAD with no shoulders. I think I rode it once after the "upgrade" and it was clear at that point that I was risking my life.

    The same story was repeated over and over in the first and second ring suburbs of Minneapolis. Two lane roads with shoulders were transformed into four lane roads with no shoulders. Reasonable 30-35 MPH speed limits were replaced by 45 MPH speedlimits. Which meant that the traffic was now actually moving at 50-55MPH. . . on a road with no shoulder.

    This was all done to "move traffic more efficiently". The irony is, these roads are dangerous - for automobiles. I defy even the safest driver, to be able to scan the roadway of a 6 lane stroad(not counting turn lanes!) and make safe decisions. It is simply too much information, things are happening too fast.

    I contrast this with the infrastructure I grew up with, in Minneapolis, on streets that were laid out before the rise of the automobile. There were residential streets on a grid, and there was a "busy" street every half mile or so. But the "busy" street was a two laner, with a speed limit of 30 MPH, and generally had stop signs ever quarter mile or so.

    So, to summarize: I am not a fan of Stroads.
    Last edited by loky1179; 01-11-14 at 10:47 PM.

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