Letter: How can we make streets more pedestrian-friendly?
To the editor:
Lately, I've been seeing more people on bikes, and more people walking and fewer cars than "before." Perhaps hungry for social contact, or the fact that we are on foot rather than in our cars, or there are more of us about, neighbors seem to stop more frequently to chat. Inevitably, one them is standing in the middle of the street as we try to maintain the six-foot separation. Only along the village green is there enough room to stop to talk, or even just to pass another pedestrian safely, without someone stepping into the street. Since retail shopping has virtually come to a standstill, kids in groups of two, three or four coast down the center of the main commercial street uninhibited by delivery trucks and vehicular traffic. If it weren't for the loss of business and the fear of illness, it would all seem pretty utopian.
I've tried to envision how we might think about our common spaces — roads and sidewalk and parking areas — differently, as we start reimagining our future and re-opening our towns. Historically, we start by giving the right-of-way to the cars, pushing the pedestrians and cyclists to the sidelines. What would happen if pedestrians and cyclists should get priority? Perhaps we would designate some streets to be pedestrian-only or we would widen our bike lanes, or eliminate cars during certain hours, or use the parking lane to widen the pedestrian area or to provide seating for restaurants and caf s. Many cities and towns around the world, are doing just that. According to CityLab (citilab.com) around the world pressures are mounting to increase sidewalk space to allow for safer pedestrian use.
Before we start listing all the hurdles we'll have to overcome, let's dream about how wonderful a pedestrian friendly street would be. I've talked to a few people about how we might reconsider our main retail street. They all cite caf tables, wider walking lanes, picnic areas, and parklets. A street like that might even attract people to come shop or dine. Let's see how creative we can be. This will be the summer of the staycation after all.
The writer is a member of the Williamstown Planning Board. These opinions do not represent those of the board.
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