In the past we’ve looked at ways to transform Canal and Bedford Streets into a vibrant urban boulevard, but today we’re taking a look at a more budget-friendly way to make streets throughout the city–and by extension the neighborhoods around them–better places not just for cars, but for everyone.
Reverting multi-lane one-way streets to two-way
Standing on the corner of Maple and Lowell streets in the heart of Corey Square just east of downtown, it can be easy to forget that streets are built not just for cars, but for users of all sorts–pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Streets aren’t just ways to move traffic; they’re the lifeblood of cities, connecting neighborhoods and providing valuable public space.
Across the country, cities are reverting busy multi-lane one-way thoroughfares like Maple, Beech, Pine and Chestnut streets into calmer, single-lane two-way streets that respect the livability of neighborhoods and enhance the viability of local businesses. The results are almost entirely positive, from fewer vehicle collisions to decreases in crime.
The slower traffic makes the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as motorists, and it increases the livability and property values of the neighborhoods around them. And while the traffic is slower, there tends to be more of it, which is good for businesses, including the corner stores, shops and restaurants that already dot Maple, Beech, Pine and Chestnut streets.
Compared with other infrastructure improvements, reverting busy multi-lane one-way thoroughfares into calmer, single-lane two-way streets is cheap–just take down some one-way signs and repaint the roads. Restriping such streets provides a good opportunity to rethink their currently car-centric feel. In the case of Manchester’s multi-lane one-way streets, there should be plenty of room to have a narrower lane in each direction for cars, plus a bike lane without losing any on-street parking. If space is tight, there could be alternating one-way traffic for bicycles, with a northbound bike lane on Maple Street and a southbound on Beech, for instance.
Right now, Corey Square is just an odd kink in Maple Street, where the city grid laid out by Ezekiel Straw intersects with the older irregular streets of Janeville. Butalong a newly two-way Maple Street, there would be enough space for amenities common in other cities, like bike lanes and a bus pull-over. More important, there would be ample public space for gathering in a true neighborhood center. Instead of wide lanes of speeding traffic, there could be bike racks, outdoor seating and landscaping in front of neighborhood businesses.
Two-ways to one-way
If Manchester decides to transform its multi-lane two-way thoroughfares into proper neighborhood arteries, the city might find a new home for some of its one-way signs.
Since most of Manchester is built on a grid (whether it be the one laid out by Straw on the East Side or that of Rimmon Heights on the West Side), one-way streets make more sense in the Queen City than they do in places like Boston, Providence or even Portsmouth. Downtown Manchester is evidence of single-lane one-way streets working well, with parallel side streets like Amherst and Hanover alternating direction. The streets are narrow and allow parking on both sides while keeping traffic at reasonable speeds. Several of those streets, including Lake Ave and Spruce Street a bit further south, might have enough room to add a striped bike lane as well along with a narrower automobile traffic lane.
On the West Side, though, the problem is quite the opposite from that of streets like Maple and Beech, but it’s an equally easy and economical fix.
As it stands, many of the West Side’s north-south streets like Rimmon, Dubuque and Notre Dame are too narrow to accommodate two-way traffic with parking on both sides. It’s hard to drive a block on these streets without having to pull over between parked cars to pass a car driving in the opposite direction. There’s no reason why some of these streets couldn’t follow the same pattern as Amherst and Concord streets downtown. Converted to a one-way with a single-lane for automobiles and parking on both sides, there would still be room for a bike lane in the same direction, with traffic on the next street over running in the opposite direction.
These changes wouldn’t cost much and they wouldn’t reduce on-street parking in neighborhoods where driveways are hard to find, but they would increase property values and make business locations along them more desirable. Most important, they would make the streets safer for every user, and more livable for everyone.
Designing streets for everyone
Reverting multi-lane one-way streets to two-way traffic is just one way of improving Manchester’s streets. The City recently added its first bike lane along Chestnut Street, one of those overly wide multi-lane one-ways. As it looks to expand its system of bike lanes, City officials should look to other cities for ideas, and explore more ways to make its streets more accessible to everyone. Some of them are already doing just that, as evidenced by the Department of Public Works and Bike Manchester working to get Manchester’s first bike lanes.
“The idea is to take a second and hard look at the street system and determine whether there is an opportunity to accommodate bike lanes. A lot of times lanes are wider than they need be and we have an opportunity to put lanes on some of the streets where they will be utilized.” – Todd Connors, Engineering Manager at DPW, as told to the Union Leader last month
LivableMHT used Streetmix to draw possible reconfigurations of some city streets–try your hand at making Manchester’s streets better for everyone.