Tuesday, May 20, 2014

El Paso Looks to Revamp Street Design Guidelines

City May Adopt Bike-, Pedestrian-Friendly Layouts for Roadways

The City-owned streets in El Paso may look very different in the future if City Council this week adopts new design guides for roadway planning. City Representatives will consider incorporating the “Urban Street Design Guide” and “Urban Bikeway Design Guide” as official design guidelines for “bicycle facility and other city funded street and roadway improvement projects.” Both guides were developed by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).
Sidewalk design elements include (from left to right) a frontage zone (extension of the building), a pedestrian through zone, a street furniture/curb zone, and a buffer zone which includes a bike lane in this illustration. (nacto.org)

According to NACTO’s website (nacto.org), the “Urban Street Design Guide” helps cities make streets “safer, more livable, and more economically vibrant.” NACTO sees streets as having an ever-expanding set of needs and not simply as traffic corridors, with an emphasis on accommodating all modes of movement including vehicles, bicycles, transit, and pedestrians. As the website stresses, streets make up 80 percent of public space.

The street design guide recommends design elements for different types of potential thoroughfares through a city, including Downtown streets, neighborhood streets, boulevards, and alleys. It looks at design elements within each street type, including lane width, sidewalks, curbs, bus lanes, bike lanes, and stormwater management.
Before: The urban street’s typical layout includes travel lanes and street-parking. (nacto.org)

Many illustrations throughout the guide show how El Paso streets could possibly look if improved to follow the new design principles. Streets like Montwood Drive, Mesa Street, Dyer Street, and Alameda Avenue would look completely different with elements like active medians, raised bike lanes, and curb extensions.
After: Improvements include bike lanes, bus lanes, improved crosswalks, and curb extensions. (nacto.org)

The guide is divided into several chapters, including one that specifically looks at intersections. The design of intersections, according to the guide, can help “bring people together and invigorate a city, while making traffic more intuitive, seamless, and predictable for those passing through.”

NACTO’s “Urban Bikeway Design Guide” delves deeper into creating well-designed streets for bicycle traffic. The guide looks at specific design elements in different sections, including bike lanes, intersections, signs and markings, cycle tracks (bike lanes physically separated from vehicle lanes), signals, and bicycle boulevards (streets that give bicyclists travel priority).

NACTO is a non-profit coalition of city transportation departments based in New York. Founded in 1996, its goal is to raise “the state of the practice for street design and transportation by building a common vision, sharing data, peer-to-peer exchange in workshops and conferences, and regular communication among member cities.”

Earlier this year, the El Paso City Council asked staff to develop a resolution adopting both guides as the official guidelines for bicycle and street improvement projects within the city. City Council will consider adopting the resolution at its May 20, 2014 meeting.