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Throwin' a curb ball: Why cities are looking to redesign sidewalks and curbs

Posted by Natalie Runnerstrom on 8/7/18 9:00 AM

CurbspaceTraffic_4X3ratio                      Photo by Tommy on Unsplash

Curb space has become some of the most valuable property in urban areas. Why? Traffic. This is one of the biggest issues that many crowded cities face in our modern world, causing myriad problems, from pedestrian and road safety to pollution and health concerns. 

Finding a spot for ridehailing

Ridehailing services such as Lyft, Uber, and Via can contribute to congestion by blocking high-traffic areas (parking lots, street corners, bike lanes, etc) with passenger pick-up and drop-off. Seeing as Uber and Lyft drivers make up two-thirds of San Francisco's traffic violations, the city is working with these companies to optimize geofencing that will guide drivers to designated "flex zones" — areas that will help manage curb space by reducing traffic violations and increasing road safety. 

                      Photo provided by Paul Sableman

Where do bikes fit in?

Last week we took a look at what's been going on with bikeshare companies across the country, with one of the biggest complaints being "sidewalk clutter." Although dockless bikes and scooters have immense benefit for on-the-go urbanites, companies such as Bird and Lime can struggle to enforce their users to park machines properly. Expanding sidewalks in high-density areas can allow for dockless scooters and bikes to share with pedestrians in harmony. Scooter companies are actually contributing funds to help cities build more bike lanes, which can be part of an expanded sidewalk.

But we need room for pedestrians...

The problem with congestion is that it actually makes sidewalks less walkable, creating chaotic intersections and illogical walking routes. Dynamic Streets is one way people are rethinking how we optimize curbs, with removable pavement pieces that can be easily changed to fit traffic needs. These puzzle pieces could significantly cut down construction time on streets and sidewalks as well as increase pedestrian safety through the use of guided lights. 

Looking to inventive, easily deployable options for sidewalk usage isn't just an option in major cities, it's a necessity. All this congestion creates unhealthy environments thousands of people have to navigate on a daily basis. Improving our currently overused streets to fit a more "pick-up and drop-off" construction could bring sanity to our sidewalks. Sidewalks are then open to become an easily walkable area where locals, workers, and tourist can coexist. This change could also encourage people to walk more, allowing for more activity (which is proven to increase your mental health!) and interactions with local businesses.

susan-yin-63089-unsplash                      Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

We need to start adapting for public transportation demands in our cities. Redesigning streets and sidewalks won't be an overnight fix, but it's necessary to find ways to combat overcrowded streets with hundreds of people, cars, bikes, scooters... you name it! These are a few ways that city planners and local governments are working to create smarter streets, but there are definitely more to come...

Topics: Smart Cities, Mobility