Search This Blog (A.K.A. "I Dote On...")

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

This is the Lawrence Group's rendering of the South Side Tower (formerly South Side National Bank) at completion. The picture is from Steve Patterson's recent post on Urban Review St. Louis.

You'd have immediately noticed the difference between the rendering and what was there prior to the rehabilitation.

But there's still something missing.

Pedestrian amenities!

Both Grand and Gravois are intimidating streets for a pedestrian to cross.

According to the measurement tool available at

> Crossing Gravois on Grand, heading south from the White Castle is about 175 feet. This includes the triangular block in the middle.

> Crossing Grand on Gravois heading east from White Castle is about 130 feet, again including a triangle block.

Those distances are way too long.

Why not expand the sidewalk and rid of both triangles?

Why not place planted medians in the center of both boulevards?

I know the answer to these questions: because it would slow down traffic.

My response: exactly!

Planners are going to have to start advocating for the hard sell in St. Louis: inconveniencing motorists for the sake of pedestrians and cyclists.

In the very crude mock up of the intersection below:

Medians are placed along both streets; these could continue nearly throughout each street's expanse, if funding called for it. Medians would help narrow the road and slow traffic, also making it more comfortable for pedestrians to cross. Trees within the medians would (eventually) shade the road and provide an attractive canopy. One traffic lane in each direction would be lost on Gravois and Grand. On-street parking would be allowed throughout. This one lane would be more narrow as well, allowing for a 4 foot bike path in each direction.

The orange triangles represent obliterated right turn opportunities. This helps slow down traffic too: the more the motorist must slow to make a sharp turn, the more aware of their surroundings they will be. In other words, these soft-angled turns inform the motorist that he or she should not have to slow down as much to complete a turn. Obviously, this arrangement is anti-pedestrian.

On the South Side Tower side, the disappearance of the triangle leaves ample room for a paved plaza with attractive lighting. This could be a spectacular patio for a restaurant that could claim the space inside the bank's impressive lobby (which is still not leased). If not, it could simply be the "front porch" of the development until a restaurant or other space found another use for it.

The ridding of the triangle islands sounds funny to us now. After all, who would want to dine on such large and noisy streets? Remember, though, that now there's a green median in the middle of the street, traffic is slower and not nearly as loud, and pedestrians feel safer crossing.

The black squares represent opportunities to seize a couple parking spaces from adjacent autocentric businesses to widen the sidewalks for this particularly pedestrian-heavy intersection. The erased island-triangles also provide more room for pedestrians.

These basic improvements would improve walking and biking conditions at this intersection 100 percent. And yes, this could not be relegated to one intersection. Both streets would need (and should receive) improvements throughout.

As long as planning in St. Louis (or the absence thereof) continues to do whatever it can to accommodate automobiles, we will forever be incentivizing big boxes and parking lots--not what we need to encourage more pedestrians, more eyes on the street, more local pedestrian-oriented businesses, and less crime.

Consider the new Kingshighway and I-64/Highway 40 intersection.

The Post-Dispatch posted a video of how it works (courtesy of MoDOT).

What a mess!

This set up is not designed for pedestrians at all!

I'm not even sure it's designed for cars.

You can tell that some traffic engineer drew this from a God's eye perspective and deemed it brilliant. On the street level, it's an absolute mess by the look of things.

Sure, now pedestrians won't have to deal with continuously merging traffic and will have a signal to walk with. They will, however, deal with a roadway given even more to the passing automobiles on the interstate. I just don't know if this was the best configuration.

And were there public meetings for this reconfiguration?

More on the I-64 mess later.

For now, we need to be redesigning our streets to benefit the pedestrians and cyclists we have for so long overlooked. Yes, this includes slowing down traffic and making driving less convenient. This will be the only way to encourage walking urbanism in the all-too-car-friendly city of St. Louis.


Fashion STL Style!

Fashion STL Style!
St. Louis Gives You the Shirt Off of Its Own Back!

Next American City

Next American City
Your Go-To Source for Urban Affairs

Join the StreetsBlog Network!

Join the StreetsBlog Network!
Your Source for Livable Streets

Trust in Rust!

Trust in Rust!
News from the Rustbelt

Dotage St. Louis -- Blogging the St. Louis Built Environment Since 2008

Topics: Historic Preservation, Politics and Government, Development, Architecture, Urban Planning, Urban Design, Local Business, Crime and Safety, Neighborhoods, and Anything Else Relating to Making St. Louis a Better City!