According to the St. Louis Beacon, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay is considering closing major thoroughfares in St. Louis for a portion of some weekends to allow walkers, runners, cyclists and others to enjoy the roads. This is a great idea.
The Mayor clearly understands that people, not automobiles, really own the streets in our city and that closing streets to cars and giving them over to people to enjoy for recreational and social uses makes sense. If this is understood, why not take a step towards doing real, lasting, permanent work to make our streets safer and more inviting to people every day?
At the top of my list may be Forest Park. Many of the roads in the park are wide enough for five or more lanes. Why? At the very least there should be significant bulb-outs along roads in Forest Park to calm traffic. If the roads looks like you can drive 40mph motorists will drive 40mph. And of course, why not open many of the roads in our major parks to pedestrians and cyclists only? There’s novelty in closing Lindell for four hours on a Saturday, but there’s real utility in making a park more of a park.
Why not address the streets in our city that are particularly uninviting or even dangerous for pedestrians? Kingshighway, Gravois, Chippewa, Market and others have been completely given over to the car. Closing a short stretch of one of these for a few hours will make them no less dangerous when car traffic resumes.
The Urban Workshop has covered this issue on several levels, calling for St. Louis streets to be put on a diet, expressing disgust at streets designed to kill and advocating for pedestrian priority over simple traffic measures for the ongoing South Grand lane reduction test. So, “Summer Streets” is a good idea, but let’s not be satisfied with neat, fun and novel, let’s make our streets better for pedestrians all the time.