Compare for a moment the following two photos. These are two sections of the same street (Cedar) in Cleveland approaching Case Western Reserve from the west.

Cedar Road in ClevelandCedar Road in Cleveland

Cedar Road in ClevelandCedar Road in Cleveland

The posted speed limit on this section of street is 35 MPH, though over the course of 3 days, most cars appeared to be exceeding it. Particularly as I made my way back from the Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference each evening (walking up the hill against traffic) the section in the upper photo felt quite dangerous. For a brief moment at the apex of the curve, cars appeared to be heading straight for the sidewalk pedestrian, as if perhaps a in a moment of distraction one might end up as a hood ornament on a Ford Escape Hybrid...

Something as simple as the location of the sidewalk makes a huge difference in a pedestrian's feeling of safety - moving the sidewalk away from the street by five feet, on the other side of the streetlights, made the section in the lower photo feel safer by a factor of ten.

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Cleveland Rocks

13 Oct 2010

The Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference runs today through Friday in Cleveland, Ohio. As part of my scholarship responsibilities, I will be blogging about the conference - I hope to come away with some practical ideas for neighborhood revitalization in Des Moines.

My sessions don't start until this afternoon, so I am taking the morning to accomplish a little bit of work.

Pedestrian-Friendly Street in Cleveland HeightsPedestrian-Friendly Street in Cleveland HeightsI'm staying with some friends in the suburb of Cleveland Heights, adjacent to Case Western Reserve University. In some ways, this area is very much like my own Drake neighborhood in Des Moines. At the end of the street is a small commercial district with a variety of shops (including the Starbucks in which I sit).

Note the simple yet thoughtful pedestrian-friendly elements in this photo:

  • Street parking separates the sidewalk from the relatively busy street.
  • A regular row of trees helps define the dedicated pedestrian area.
  • Brick pavers create an area between the cars and the walking path for amenities like newspaper vending and business signage.
  • Buildings are built right up to the sidewalk creating a defined edge.
  • Each retail space has a large storefront window.

These are all simple and relatively inexpensive things to do - they don't require major infrastructure improvement, and relatively minimal ongoing maintenance.

And they work. Most of the people in the coffee shop right now appear to have walked here from the surrounding neighborhood. If we create nice places to be, close to the places we live, and comfortable paths to get there, people take advantage of the opportunity.

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