Cool Tools

14 Sep
Streetmix.  Image from popupcity.net.

Streetmix. Image from popupcity.net.

Over the last few weeks I’ve stumbled onto some cool bicycling tools (in some cases thanks to friends who brought my attention to them).  But not the kind of tool you use to tighten or remove a part on your bicycle.  Rather, they allow you, and maybe your local officials, to look at streets in a different — bicycle-focused — way.

(Re)Design Your Dream Street

The first is an online tool called Streetmix.  Developed by members of Code for America, Streetmix allows you to design your own street — or redesign an existing one — just by dragging and dropping sidewalks, bike lanes, and car lanes onto a visual matrix.  Unfortunately it does not include dimensions for existing streets (it would be an enormous job to collect all of that data for all American cities), but if you can measure it yourself or get the data from your city government, you can then play around visually with the various elements of the streetscape.

I can envision this being a great tool for bicycle and pedestrian advocates trying to make the case for a different use of street space when, for example, a street like Forest Hill Avenue is up for significant reconstruction, or when a new one is proposed.  It could also help when a street is being repaved and restriped — to determine whether there might be room for a bike lane after all, for example.

Rate a Street

Another tool that sounds less fun but goes well with Streetmix is the Bicycle and Pedestrian Level of Service Calculator.  Level of Service is a term used by traffic engineers to rate how well a street performs in terms of safety and traffic flow.  The problem is that a street can score very highly on level of service but be very unfriendly to other users like pedestrians and bicyclists.

In other words, the way streets are usually evaluated by engineers focuses only on one set of users — motorists.  The Bicycle and Pedestrian Level of Service Calculator gives us a way of rating streets according to others users’ needs.  It’s not that every single street has to be optimized for every kind of user.  But many streets — think of Parham Road, for example — reflect the notion that only one set of users matter.  The calculator described here can help correct for that bias.

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One Response to “Cool Tools”

  1. Thomas Potterfield September 20, 2013 at 11:42 PM #

    Good post. Citizen traffic engineers arise!

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