Green Streets

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A big problem in built up areas is developing rights of way for bike lanes, sidewalks and the like. As mentioned before and likely to be mentioned in the future, our cities have been built with cars given priority, and other means of transportation far down the list. It would seem that we should give priority to “transportation of people” rather than transportation of motor vehicles but that is not usually the case in N. America.

There are other reasons for green streets other than transportation. Some are put in to beautify streets and others to reduce problems from rain runoff. The topic here however is for alternative transportation.

Green streets are an effective and low cost method of encouraging cycling and walking. The City of Vancouver, Portland, Oregon and other jurisdictions have developed such streets. The general idea is to take an existing street and redesign it to discourage motor vehicle traffic (not eliminate it) and to slow it down. Usually vehicle parking is left in place but it may be somewhat restricted, depending on the situation. This is generally done on quieter residential streets and a variety of methods and designs can be used such as:

- speed bumps – not always the best.

- narrowing streets with curbs out into the lane of traffic – there is one of these on Mountain Ave. between High Rd. and Glenmore Road – sometimes called “corner bulges” (in a typical green street these bump outs would be developed into small gardens, not covered in concrete.)

- installing circles in the middle of uncontrolled intersections which cause vehicles to slow to go around them.

- allowing bicycles to go through on a street but putting in right turn lanes, causing motor vehicles to turn right.

- lots of cycling, walking and green street signs and crosswalks to let motorists know that these areas give priority to the non driving public.

The reason they are called “green streets” is that efforts are usually taken to add small gardens in the areas narrowed and inside the traffic circles in the middle of intersections. These gardens are usually offered to nearby residents to maintain – Vancouver does this and has small signs showing whether the garden has been adopted or if it is up for adoption.

Some of the effects of green streets:

- slower vehicle traffic and quieter streets.

- more people walking and cycling in the area – thus more people friendly.

- higher property values due to less vehicle noise, more greenery, and people friendly atmosphere.

- gives local residents a bit more garden space and a chance to make their area look better.

- relatively inexpensive method of creating alternate transportation corridors. Considering that the City is quite stingy with their bike and pedestrian monies, this is a big advantage. These projects can also be done in stages and quite quickly if desired.

These alternative transportation corridors are usually situated every few streets – as an example in Kelowna, two or three could be located running roughly east-west between Harvey Ave. and Clement Ave. Another three or four could be located between the lake and Spall Ave. running north-south.

More on green streets along with some photos, at a later date. Suffice to say that the City is considering a trial project in the near future – a great move and one that is to be encouraged.

John.

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