Posts Tagged ‘Ian Lockwood’

Accessibility vs. Mobility

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Traffic engineer Ian Lockwood from Glatting Jackson has been to Detroit a few times now for planning efforts to spur redevelopment and revitalization.

He’s highlighted a key concept for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit advocates. Current U.S. traffic engineering culture pursues greater mobility, i.e. how fast someone can get between places. That’s often why they are stuck thinking primarily about cars, wider roads, higher speeds, and interstate expressways.

Lockwood says we should all focus on accessibility instead. In doing so, we’d try to rein in sprawl, increase density, and improve transportation options.

Perhaps given our automotive heritage, Detroit seems particulary focused on mobility. A recent Brookings Institute report found Metro Detroit led the nation in job sprawl. Seventy-seven percent of our jobs are more than 10 miles from the city center.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“From transportation to workforce development to regional innovation and the provision of social services, the spatial distribution of a metro area’s jobs can ultimately influence its economic productivity, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion and equity,” wrote Elizabeth Kneebone, a senior research analyst at Brookings and author of the 23-page report.

Is there any wonder why we can’t find enough money to repair our roads?

At a recent traffic engineering meeting, Jonathon Levine, a researcher from the University of Michigan gave a presentation about accessibility versus mobility. Fortunately it’s on-line but be forewarned: it’s a little traffic geeky. Even so, the first couple minutes really nail the point about accessibility versus mobility.

And for those that can’t make it through the entire video, this slide really captures the main thrust that accessibility should be the ends. The means includes mobility, proximity (how close things are together) and connectivity (can you access them remotely, e.g. through the Internet).

Levine's Accessibility model for transportation

This needs to be the transportation paradigm for Metro Detroit, and if it were, it’d make bicycling a viable transportation option for more people more often.

Reshaping Detroit: Villages and Greenways

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

“This continent has not seen a transformation like Detroit’s since the last days of the Maya. The city, once the fourth largest in the country, is now so depopulated that some stretches resemble the outlying farmland and others are altogether wild.”

— From “Detroit Arcadia“, Harper’s Magazine, 2007

urban-village-299x224At nearly 140 square miles, Detroit is a very large city.

The problem is it no longer has enough residents or businesses providing a tax base to support this size. About 40 square miles are abandoned or vacant.

Yesterday’s Free Press featured an article “Urban villages in Detroit’s future?” about recent efforts to make this situation work.

In a new vision of Detroit’s future, a team of visiting urban planners suggests the city might one day resemble the English countryside, with distinct urban villages surrounded by farms, fields and meadows.

The idea may sound improbable, but Alan Mallach, a New Jersey-based planner who led the visiting team, said Detroit is evolving in that direction anyway, with large chunks of the city now largely abandoned.

“In a way, think of it as a 21st-Century version of a traditional country pattern,” Mallach said. “You have high-density development on one side of the street and cows on the other, quite literally.”

Having participated in these conversations over the past year, this certainly seems like the most realistic strategy for Detroit.

So how does it affect biking?

First, having good walkability and bikeability within these urban villages is a key design feature. And since Detroit has “good bones” (i.e. uses the American street grid), we’re mostly there.

Second, the planned connections between the villages and in the lower density greenspaces are great places for building greenways and bike lanes, as noted in the Free Press article.

Preserving Non-Motorized Mobility

Detroit Free PressOne question with creating these larger greenspaces is how do we preserve the street grids and maintain bikability? Creating superblocks disrupts direct routes for cyclists and pedestrians, while concentrating vehicle traffic around their perimeters.

For example, there is a recent proposal for an urban farm made up of 10 square city blocks. How do we handle the public right-of-ways across that property (which could interfer with the farming operations)?

In speaking with Allan Mallach, he really didn’t have any specific ideas yet. And, what he is proposing (and what Detroit is experiencing) truly is unique at this scale, so we’ll need to work out some issues as we progress.

I also raised this question with Ian Lockwood, a renowned senior transportation planner with Glatting Jackson. One thought he had was to maintain the street grid, but return the roads to gravel in order to reduce the infrastructure and make them permeable (for reduced storm water management.)

The Future of Detroit Biking

Detroit will undoubtedly continue its transformation whether its planned or not. It’s already transformed in ways that make it far more bike friendly, especially compared with the surround suburban areas and with other American cities.

And with some perseverance (and funding!), we’ll continue planning this transformation to make us even more bike friendly.

Smart Transportation and Traffic Engineering

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Last week, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan brought in Ian Lockwood, a traffic engineer from Glatting Jackson.  Ian was here to lead a multi-disciplinary team of experts to look at how we can improve the built environment on Detroit’s lower eastside.

One of the biggest benefits of these sessions is Ian provides the terminology and solutions to familiar urban design issues, e.g. super blocks, a city’s bone structure, etc.  He also emphasizes that cities exist to promote exchange.  That increasing transportation speeds limits exchange.  And when making decisions, we need to err on the side of place.

So, if you missed these sessions, you’re in luck because Ian has a video from an earlier presentation on-line (see below.)

He also has a PDF document that covers many of the same topics covered last week.  It’s called Transportation Prescription for Healthy Cities.