Pedestrian Friendly Streets in Downtown Atlanta

Despite my previous two posts, downtown Des Moines could really learn a thing or two from downtown Atlanta. An entire mini-neighborhood of walkable, pedestrian-friendly streets remain in the older portions of the large downtown.

Take this for example:
Pedestrian Friendly Street (Atlanta)Pedestrian Friendly Street (Atlanta)

Broad Street NW is a gem of a street. What makes streets like this particularly friendly to pedestrians?

  • Buildings primarily range between three and five stories tall. Taller buildings have a clear three-story "base" to maintain the pedestrian scale of the street.
  • The street is about 30 feet wide - comfortable for a pedestrian to cross, thin enough to encourage drivers to slow down and pay attention.
  • Both sides are lined with street-level retail/restaurants.
  • Cars are allowed to park along one side of the street, separated from the pedestrians by a row of trees.
  • Buildings have awnings for shade and protection from the weather.
  • On the other side, pedestrians are screened from moving cars by trees in raised planting beds.
  • The path of travel is wide enough to allow for sidewalk dining, without impinging on pedestrian movement.
  • Pedestrian crossings are clearly marked.

Clearly, we know how to make comfortable and inviting pedestrian landscapes that also facilitate business. Removing pedestrians from this environment (skywalks) and removing necessary streetscape elements lead to spaces that nobody wants to inhabit.

The lesson for Des Moines is to capitalize on and expand the few pedestrian-friendly areas that remain in order to promote viable, sustainable mixed-use commercial districts. Adopt form-based zoning overlays that focus less on use, and more on the form of the built environment to encourage vital and organic redevelopment.


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