Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Complete Street Design Interventions for Laguna Beach

To investigate the solution for greater mobility in Laguna Beach, the Complete Streets Task Force was asked to research, consolidate and report recommendations for infrastructure improvements and interventions that would build a Complete Streets (CS) network and restore balance among four forms of mobility, walking, biking, busing, private autos, and to do it safely. Cities that build Complete Streets have taken the necessary steps for socially responsible living and made the necessary investment for a sustainable economy. The benefits are better health through exercise, preparation for escalating energy prices, adopting new mobility safely, and combating climate change.

Cal Worthington said 'Cars are made to get around (California) and there is no other way to get around'. California shaped transportation policy around this prophetic statement and Laguna Beach bought it too. When a city adopts Complete Streets in the circulation element of its general plan the roadways are designed to accommodate all users not just cars. That means pedestrians, cyclists, public transit users and automobiles. A mobility network balanced among all these elements reduces the demand for parking and automobile infrastructure and increases the incentive for commuters to use safe alternatives to the automobile. Infrastructure used in a complete street include sidewalks, bike lanes, bus lanes, comfortable and accessible transit stops, frequent crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, and curb extensions to slow traffic.

Here are some examples where CS interventions would make sense in Laguna.

Laguna Central Connector

The single most direct means to connect Central Laguna with South Laguna is via automobile on Pacific Coast Highway. Today there are no other safe means of mobility connecting Central with South Laguna except walking on the beach or swimming. The emergency parking shoulder on PCH is utilized by bicycle riders and pedestrians at their peril. The northbound road shoulder at Aliso drives directly into the support column of the Aliso Pedestrian Bridge and into the curb at Aliso Bridge. The sidewalks north and southbound are discontinuous and do not serve pedestrians along those routes. In case you were wondering, yes these routes are used by brave pedestrians and cyclists competing with automobile traffic passing at 45mph. Even dog walkers risk waking on Pacific Coast Highway despite traffic blasting by within inches of Fido.

In cities where complete street interventions are successful, city policy played a crucial role in encouraging those interventions. Substantial increases in bicycling, pedestrian traffic and public transport require an integrated package of many different complementary interventions, land use planning, and restrictions on car use. Cities begin the change of policy by supporting resolutions to complete the streets.