Friday, September 01, 2006

"Walkability" plan for Howell a traffic nightmare

The Ann Arbor News has an article today about Howell and walkability. "The Pied Piper of Walkability", Dan Burden - has these recommendations for Howell to improve walkability. As someone who frequently walks and drives in Downtown Howell, these are my opinions on the matters.

1. Roundabouts

I never liked them. I don't care for them at MSU, cared for them less in Okemos, and really think they are bad for Brighton and Green Oak. The problem with them is that the only ones who know how to use them (and even that's debatable) are MSU students and graduates.

2. Reduce and narrowing lanes

All I have to say about this is to drive on D-19 near Mason around 5PM - Or Grand River near Chilson for that matter. This is a disaster.

3. Back in angle parking

I can go along with this.

4. Bumpouts to reduce parking near intersections

I support this since turning right from the alley between the Courthouse and DQ is a nightmare.

5. Bicycle lanes

I like the old days when bikes were ridden on sidewalks.

6. Pedestrian refuges

We'll see what happens here.

Burden says Howell has the opportunity to become a regional trend-setter with the proposed changes. "I think this is going to be total cutting-edge,'' he says. "You will become a model for the Midwest if developed as planned.''

Forget cutting edge or being cool. I prefer Mayberry. Some of these are good ideas, but reducing lanes and narrowing streets is going to make a traffic problem worse.


Keith Richards said...
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Keith Richards said...

I'm still trying to decide on the roundabouts. The one on main street in Brighton and the older east roundabout on Lee road seem pretty straightforward but the one they just opened up on the west side of Lee is very confusing. Locals should figure out the quirks eventually but I'm worried that there since it is part of the expressway entrance/exit ramp it will cause problems forever with out-of-towners using it for the first time. IMHO they should restrict the use of unusually complicated roundabouts to roads that get mostly local traffic. I won't be surprised if we soon begin hearing requests for a study on how to simplify the double roundabout.

I would like to see more walking/bike paths built along our rural roads. They don't need to be much, just an extra 2 or 3 feet of asphalt laid down over the shoulder on one side of the road so that bikes and pedestrians can use the road without interfering with car traffic. Personally I'd love to be able to hop on my bicycle and ride into town but it is too dangerous to share the road with cars whipping past a few inches away going 65mph, especially since so many local roads are packed with curves and hills that limit forward visibility.

Instead, when I want to go for a bike ride I have to drive (wasting expensive gas) my bike to a park where I can safely ride and then drive back again.

In an era when doctors, insurance companies, employers and the government are trying to get citizens to step outside for exercise, we need to do whatever is reasonable to make it possible for more people to exercise safely.

Incidently, many home buyers try to buy in areas with pedistrian/bike friendly roads and installing these paths will increase home values. Installing these paths can be fairly inexpensive if they are added when roads are paved or resurfaced.

RKG said...

The theory behind lane-narrowing is that people will drive at a speed that allows them to feel comfortable. For example, if you didn't post a speed for an expressway people would drive fast because the width of the road, gentleness of curves and the like make it easy to drive fast. At the same time if you make people feel uncomfortable they will slow down. One of the easiest ways to make them uncomfortable is to give them less room, ie., narrow the lane. It's counterintuitive, but it seems to work.

I do agree that roundabouts should be reserved for local usage. I use the Main Street one on a regular basis and think it works great, at least until you meet someone who obviously isn't familiar with it. Then it's a mess. I'm betting that a high percentage of people who will be visiting the Green Oak Lifestyle Mall will not be familiar enough with a roundabout to avoid the chaos factor.

Pogo said...

A few years ago my middle aged brother-in-law observed that while visiting a park he was happy to see a few policemen walking around. He reflected on how age changes our perspective by telling us how much he HATED to see police hanging around when he was a teenager because they always ruined the fun he and his friends were having.

I've also noticed tht young people like to speed up and down streets while parents curse teenagers for driving dangerously around small children. As we age we get to see a different part of life that young people are totally oblivious to. Dan, some of these things that you don't like today may become welcome friends as you get older. Don't be so quick to condemn new ideas until you take time to understand them, and always remember that other people may know a few things that you don't.

anonymous said...

The first time I saw a roundabout was in Massachusetts. I was in rush hour traffic and drove into it unexpectedly and boy, was I surprised! I drove all the way around the circle trying to figure out what it was. When I exited, I went in the wrong direction and it took me several minutes to figure this out because in that section of MA most street signs only give the name of the cross road, not the name of the street you are driving on. I spent the next 15 minutes cursing the cheapskates who assumed that if a person is driving on a road he must know the what the name is.

Once I understood how they worked I did just fine. But experiencing them for the first time, not even knowing such things exist, can be quite an experience. I feel sorry for the people who have their first experience at the double roundabout on Lee road.

Incidently, most people in MA don't call them roundabouts. They call them rotaries or sometimes traffic circles.

Not-a-RINO said...

I simply hate the roundabouts. They are confusing to visitors, you never are sure you won't get clobbered by someone, and you must be sure you are in the right lane to get to where you want to go or you may wind up going the wrong way as in the Green Oak version. What ever happened to having traffic lights with loops to detect cars, green arrows and a clearly marked pedestrian walkway? This, to me, is an example of "If it aint broke, fix it!" Maybe I'm just "old school".

anonymous said...

Incidently, many cities and towns have an ordinance prohibiting bicycles from using sidewalks. Yes, this makes it possible to get a ticket for riding on the sidewalk. I've never heard of anyone actually getting a ticket for this but I have seen police make bicyclists get off the sidewalk more than once.

Bicyclists need to be aware that when riding on the road they are required by law to obey all the same laws as cars. This means they drive on the right, with the flow of traffic, and stop when required by stop signs and traffic lights. If a bicyclist runs a stop sign or light he can get a ticket and it does go on his traffic record. This DID happen to a room mate that I had in college. Technically bicycles are allowed to use the lane just like cars do but around here it is suicide because cars drive so fast on roads with limited visibility. Having the right-of-way is no consolation if you are dead.

And Keith, I too support having a bicycle lane on the side of paved roads if for no other reason than to get them out of the way so they don't disrupt the traffic flow on our badly overcrowded roads. I'm tired of having to drive for 5 minutes behind bicycles going 10mph because they can't get over and traffic is too heavy to pass them safely.

Page Field said...

"Walkability" plan for Howell a traffic nightmare
That's the headlline. Should there not be a question mark after the word nightmare. I read the article and I don't understand the negativity implied in the headline. Walkability is valuable asset to downtown Howell. Traffic circles like the one on Main St. Brighton works very well. Maybe the use of the word nightmare is used to provoke idiots like me to respond. Anyway I like the plan and when combined with the new loop road on the southeast side of town, downtown Howell will be very pleasant with minimal truck traffic. Many merchants downtown support it and these are die hard republicans.

Keith Richards said...

Check out this photo of the new double roundabout on Lee Road:

Courtesy of the Livingston County road commission.

The longer I study the photo the more I shake my head. I can't believe that anyone would put such a complicated construct right off a busy expressway exit.

One thing that looks REALLY bad, that is going to cause MASSIVE confusion, are the left turn arrows in the left lanes. Strangers are BOUND to try and turn left without going round first because that is what the arrows seem to be telling them. Yeah, I see the little curve before the arrowhead which indicates that the left turn is made on the far side of the circle. But I'll bet a cold one at the local watering hole that more than a few drivers will not read the symbol correctly and turn left into oncoming traffic.

V the K said...

Re: Roundabouts

Forget about them! I live in Maryland, and the place is infested with them. They are useless, they hold up traffic, and they consume vastly more space than a conventional intersection. I don't know what gets into urban planners except latent Euro-envy. That must be the only explanation for those worthless wastes-of-space.