Fixing Traffic Problems in Bishop Arts

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The other day, someone asked me:
“OK, so you’re an urban planner. Right now, I have to constantly slow down or pull aside when traffic is going the opposite direction in Bishop Arts. What would you do about it?”
And my reply:
“Nothing. It’s right just the way it is”.

I wish someone had taken a photo of the questioner’s face. It was a mixture of perplexity and indignance, the way one may react to a cardiologist who opined that heart disease was just perfect the way it was and there was no reason to mess with it.

So why did I not think the problem of going slowly in Bishop Arts was really a problem? Was it professional malpractice, an indifference to my vocation?

In automobile-dominated places, cars rule. And making sure cars can get through as quickly as possible is the highest priority. But they’re not places where you’d want to walk around, sip coffee on a sidewalk cafe, or cross the street.

The vast bulk of the places in DFW are dominated by cars.

In a handful of walkable places, however, pedestrians rule. These places create enormous economic and cultural value for huge swaths of the city. Can anyone imagine the revitalization that’s taking place in North Oak Cliff happening without the few pedestrian-oriented blocks of Bishop Arts? In such places, someone can cross the street with confidence that cars are moving slowly enough that they probably won’t hit them, and won’t likely kill them if they do. They’re comfortable. Humans love them. And if you’re going to drive your car through, it can take an extra minute to get through.
That minute is the price you pay for the economic and social value generated by such places. Anyone who wants to avoid these places can easily do so; it is little challenge to spend one’s life in DFW without ever visiting any of our urban core (or small-town downtown) neighborhoods. People can stay away from pedestrian-oriented places, while still benefiting from the jobs and taxes they bring to the region. But we can’t have everything, everywhere. If we want places like Bishop Arts to exist, a few blocks of slower traffic is the price we pay.

by Rik Adamski,

Principal, ASH + LIME

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