38th & Meridian too busy for walkability

Keywords Opinion

The biggest challenge in making the intersection of 38th and Meridian streets more walkable is that 38th Street is a highway. It is not conducive to foot traffic because it's a loud, dangerous and terrifying space to be on foot or bike. This is the primary reason that it is the racial dividing line as well for the neighborhoods to the north and south of it (in general). The upgrade done on 38th a few years ago is visually nice, but it's not being maintained and it did nothing to calm traffic traveling as quickly as 55 mph. Who's going to want to live and walk around that? Cross walks don't do anything to make that kind of traffic less safe. Removing two lanes, one from either side and converting to on-street parking would help quite a bit.

When people feel safe outside from traffic because cars are traveling at 30 mph or slower (20-25 is ideal), then people feel comfortable enough to move in and take risks redeveloping things. Until that time, we can all expect this area to be very challenging.

Crime goes away pretty quickly when people feel like they can congregate, walk and live in a place on foot without fear of being run over. Primarily, car-oriented areas like 38th are just not conducive to this without doing what I mentioned above. We either need to recognize that 38th is a road, which is meant to connect places in a high-speed manner like a train does (this is why trains are referred to as a railroad) or significantly balance out cars with walking/biking making it a wealth-creating platform that is a street. Right now 38th is a stroad trying to be both a road and a street but doing neither well. It does one thing well though: create crime by creating an undesirable place while also creating a place with many traffic accident and many pedestrian injuries.

Here's a great video defining a stroad and a great example of what I'm talking about: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2013/3/4/the-stroad.html.

Jim Hodapp

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