Monday, February 6, 2012

A job well done

As I noted in my last post, our city has a fairly long pedestrian/cyclist walkway along the railroad right-of-way that passes through town. I call this the "promenade," though I have no idea what its official name is. When I was working in Brooklyn, we had something called the Promenade that ran along the East River, and so I'm borrowing the term.

This civic improvement was put in some years back to help with the problem of having many grade crossings right in the middle of town. It helps cut down on the chances for people to be hit by the train, and it also funnels walking and cycle traffic (along with a few places where slow-moving auto traffic can can gain one-block access). It seems to have done that admirably.

The quality of the design and materials used is very high. It really does make it much easier to get through this part of town. I appreciate the way it invites people to saunter along... particularly office workers during their lunch hour. The appurtenances are generally elegant, even a bit classy. We could use more of that sort of feel in our cities: humanization, warmth. The effect of such a place is an easing of the tempo of civic life. So much so, this is one place where having a good bicycle bell is very important: people get that relaxed and inattentive here.

The "Promenade" also brings up something easily overlooked: one improvement project can meet many needs simultaneously. This one added safety, attractiveness, and utility (for transportation and seating in some places). It connects the only large grocery store for miles with nearby neighborhoods, and it gives cyclists a (relatively) safe way to move about an area fraught with potential problems. 

Of course, there are some difficulties, here and there: it is unclear how pedestrians and cyclists are supposed to "relate" in some places (other than cyclists simply dismounting or going very, very slowly), and the placement of benches results in some serious congestion at times. However, I think with some common sense and a little respect, it generally works well.

It will be a long time till so many cyclists are out that the Promenade becomes overburdened. In the meantime, I think this multi-use environment shows that even in a city with sometimes less-than-logical planning for a multi-modal transport future, there is creativity and foresight.


  1. Separated walkways/multi-use paths can do so much to help with easy cycling in a city. I have a folding bike that I use to commute, but there were places where the traffic was so sketchy that I would just fold up the bike and take the bus in a few spots. Then I realized that without adding too much distance, there was a separated path I could use, and it's really sped things up for me and made it safer.

    1. Yes, Alex, it is really easy to forget that one can walk a bike as well as ride it! I hope to see some separated paths put in our town in places where they could do some real good. Our city is rather behind the times on this stuff, but I see some signs that change is coming. Keep up the avid (folding) cycling in town!