Dispatches from Utah: Why wide streets are unpleasant

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One of Salt Lake City’s “saner” downtown streets with one travel lane each direction and left-turn lanes where needed. There’s one light rail lane in each direction. A bicycle priority lane is marked in the two travel lanes. 

Possible extended title: They have so many persistent disadvantages even after several (but weak) mitigation attempts

Preface: Utah law says that people driving automobiles must yield for pedestrians in or approaching crosswalk (stop if in a school zone and the school zone light is flashing). Drivers and bicyclists in Illinois must stop to let people cross the street, in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

If you read my last “Dispatches from Utah” post you remember that I took a ride on the inaugural Frontrunner South train from Salt Lake City to Provo, Utah. Then my laptop died and things got hairy. I’ve been back in Chicago for over a week now. Riding the trains, both light rail and the commuter rail, was one of the transportation highlights of my trip. The second was walking a couple of miles from one TRAX light rail station to my family’s home. This walking experienced was then followed by a driving trip to meet my cousin at a “local” Thai restaurant. (When your city is as spread out like Salt Lake City, and less dense than Chicago, your definition of “local” is expanded.)

I drove for 20 minutes to meet him. I drove down Salt Lake City’s State Street for a majority of the way. It’s 102 feet wide, with 3 lanes in each direction, a center turn lane, parallel parking on both sides, and sidewalks. There are no bikeways. Many of the city’s and region’s streets are like this. I had an immediate problem: I was driving southbound but the restaurant was on the northbound side of the street. Under no circumstances did I feel safe slowing down and turning left across 3+1 northbound lanes into the restaurant’s parking lot – I didn’t even know if this was legal. I couldn’t even see the addresses of the buildings on the opposite side of the street. After passing the approximate address, I turned left at a signalized intersection and then did a full roundabout drive through a neighborhood for 3-5 minutes before coming back to State Street, now driving on the same side of the street as the restaurant.  Continue reading Dispatches from Utah: Why wide streets are unpleasant

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Why is there a “vestigal” stoplight just south of Clark/Roosevelt?

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Although it’s hard to see, there’s a button-activated, signalized crosswalk located between the first planter median and the jersey wall.

[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

Q: There’s a working stoplight on Clark south of Roosevelt, that doesn’t seem to have any purpose or function. What’s the deal with this vestigial traffic light?

A: The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) installed this signal during the 2004 rehab of the Clark/Roosevelt intersection, when the Clark underpass was built, says spokesman Pete Scales. The stoplight was included for a future access road to a housing development planned for the vacant land southwest of the intersection. “That massive redevelopment project never got off the ground,” Scales says. “At this point it might take more money to remove the stoplight than leave it in.” Continue reading Why is there a “vestigal” stoplight just south of Clark/Roosevelt?

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