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Complete Streets



in this issue + The Roadway Design Revolution – Complete Streets, National Design Guidelines and Shifting Attitudes (PAGE 1) + Value Propositions in Landscape Architecture (PAGE 7) + Reducing Disputes in the Field (PAGE 9) + Creating Great Places (PAGE 10) + Building Better Bikeways (PAGE 12) + Streets As Complete Places (PAGE 14)

elevation A QUARTERLY PUBLICATION OF THE ILLINOIS CHAPTER American Society of Landscape Architects

The Roadway Design Revolution –Complete Streets, National Design Guidelines and Shifting Attitudes Author: Jack Cebe Contributor: Craig Williams


’m sure for most of you, this edition of Elevation isn’t the first time you’ve heard about Complete Streets. Today, 34 states (including Illinois) and over 550 jurisdictions nationwide have adopted Complete Streets policies or resolutions. This is quite remarkable, considering that the Complete Streets movement, and the term “Complete Streets” itself came into being only a brief ten years ago. While numerous studies have been conducted to quantify the health, social, economic

and environmental benefits of Complete Streets, much of the instant success of the Complete Streets movement is because most people inherently understand these benefits when they experience Complete Streets firsthand. It’s likely that when you think about your favorite street, you think about an environment that is human-scaled:

IT’S LIKELY THAT WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE STREET, YOU THINK ABOUT AN ENVIRONMENT THAT IS HUMANSCALED: PEDESTRIANS HAVE WIDE RIGHTS-OF-WAY; UNIQUE LANDSCAPING, ARCHITECTURE AND HARDSCAPE ARE INTERTWINED... pedestrians have wide rights-of-way; unique landscaping, architecture and hardscape are intertwined throughout the streetscape; large shade trees provide shelter from the

Typical Protected Bike Lane in Chicago (image courtesy of University of Chicago)

summer heat; you feel safe crossing the street wherever you need to; it’s just as easy— if not easier—to hop on your bicycle, the bus, or another form of transit as it is to drive and find parking. The concept of Complete Streets isn’t new— many elements of the previous scene could describe a recent new-urbanist development or community revitalization project, a main street from many US cities in the early 1900s, or streets around the medieval and ancient world. Even throughout autooriented post-war period of development in America during the 1950s and 1960s, we were emulating the positive elements of Complete Streets in the form of indoor and outdoor shopping malls, while unfortunately destroying or ignoring the Complete Streets that already existed in our communities. Sprawling, auto-centric development patterns caused people to want to drive through main streets instead of to them, and humanscaled city streets were perceived to cause congestion and accidents. During this period, [continued on page 4]



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Letter from the Editor


here are many reasons I live in the City of Chicago, but at the top of the list are the city’s lively neighborhoods created in part by their walkability and access to multiple modes of transportation. Huge parking lots with street frontage, strip malls and downtowns without people on the sidewalks give me the jitters, and I do what I can to avoid them. I do not own a car, so inviting public walkways and spacious bike lanes are essential in my everyday life. Maybe, like me, you have experienced what I’ll call “less-than-complete streets” – for instance those times you try riding down a busy road with no bike lane, and realize you are better off just walking your bike down the sidewalk (even though it is littered with broken glass). Maybe you have visited a new city with hopes of exploring the downtown, but felt no reason to stay because everyone does the same thing; drive up, park, go into a store, walk back out to the car and leave. After living in Chicago for a few years I have learned the true significance of complete streets, so I would personally like to thank all the authors in this issue that, through their work, have helped make these great places a reality. Please enjoy the read, and as always, your comments are appreciated. Feel free to contact us at




The Roadway Design Revolution –Complete Streets, National Design Guidelines and Shifting Attitudes [continued from page 1] the emerging field of roadway engineering became largely focused on increasing vehicular throughput and safety. This led to a favoritism for roadway design that tried to account for human error and negligence by designing for the worst-case scenario in terms of design speed, design vehicle, and traffic flow - known as Passive Design. Passive Design, simply put, strives to remove obstructions that reduce throughput from the roadway, leading to undesirable conditions for community streets—multiple, wide vehicular lanes; wide curb radii that encourage fast turning vehicles; high traffic speeds and volumes; bleak, auto-oriented aesthetics and atmosphere; and confined, uncomfortable sidewalks and bicycle lanes. While Passive Design is preferred in some contexts – mainly highways and roadways in rural areas – it is detrimental to urban and suburban communities. Passive Design encourages a dependence on auto-transportation, which leads to crippling congestion and other noxious issues. In contrast to Passive Design, Proactive Design1 forces drivers to slow down and pay close attention to their surroundings through the use of traffic calming strategies. Traffic calming strategies include high-visibility and clearly delineated roadway markings, roadway width reductions, and restricted turning radii, as well as landscaped medians and other aesthetically pleasing visual elements such as street trees. In turn, Proactive Design promotes walking, bicycling and transit by allowing users of multiple ages and abilities to feel safe and comfortable utilizing these modes to fulfill many of their day-to-day transportation needs. So, if Complete Streets and Proactive Design is superior to Passive Design, why aren’t all of our community streets being designed in this way? One popular answer is that in order to construct roadways with federal funding, which accounts for a substantial number of roadway projects, roadway designs must adhere to standards defined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD, which is guided by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, NCUTCD). Likewise, statejurisdiction roadway projects must adhere to state guidelines, which are in most states largely based on the American Association of City Transportation Officials (AASHTO) manual (as in Illinois). Organizations like AASHTO 4

Complete Street in Seattle, WA. Like a shopping mall, but better

and NCUTCD have been meticulously refining design standards for US roadways for decades, and unfortunately most of their guidelines are based upon the principles of Passive Design. Despite our rapidly changing transportation habits and urban development patterns, the pace of change in design manuals like AASHTO and MUTCD is slow. AASHTO took over 12 years to update their bikeway design guide and the NCUTCD committee only meets once every 6 months to discuss and vote upon design guidance changes. Similarly, state design manuals typically adopt guidance provided in the AASHTO guides, and it can take additional years to update a state design manual following national Manual updates. In an effort to address the need for more modern, innovative, context sensitive and dynamic public rights-of-way guidance in urban areas, organizations such as the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) have assembled best practice design guidelines for Complete Streets design such as the CNU/ITE Walkable Urban Thoroughfares Guide, and the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, as well as the recently released Urban Street Design Guide. These guidelines are taken from best practices observed in cities that are at the forefront of Complete Streets design, such as New York, Chicago, Seattle, and San Francisco

These types of guidelines and design practices are often met with resistance due to the fact that some of the guidelines contradict intensely vetted and widely accepted AASHTO and MUTCD guidance. However, more and more agencies are coming on board with these urban design strategies – recently the FHWA endorsed many portions of the CNU/ITE Walkable Urban Thoroughfares Guide and NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, and Washington State DOT officially endorsed the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide. While momentum is building in favor of Complete Streets, Complete Streets design principles still must often be adapted to work within the traditional Passive Design realm. Even in the most progressive US cities, vehicular throughput often takes precedence over pedestrian crossing intervals, on-street parking demand often trumps bikeway installation or upgrades, and highways continue to be expanded while transit networks struggle to meet their own maintenance needs. However, as cities continue to grow, transportation priorities continue to shift, and more people realize the value that Complete Streets add to our communities, the push for Complete Streets will continue to build.

The image below is taken from a project Alta Planning + Design worked on in St. Paul Minnesota. The study team worked with Minnesota DOT to determine the feasibility of Complete Streets solutions for Snelling Avenue – a state-jurisdiction, heavilyused arterial roadway servicing an interstate. The roadway passed through several substantial nonmotorized transportation generators such as retail districts, universities, and residential neighborhoods. The final proposal presented a balanced approach to Complete Streets and included concurrent regional transit improvements, all while balancing the traffic demands of the corridor. Recommendations included upgrades such as Bus Rapid Transit, light rail transit, on-street cycletracks (also known as protected bike lanes) in select locations, pedestrian median refuges, pedestrian and bicycle intersection improvements, as well as other Complete Streets elements.

JACK CEBE joined Alta Planning + Design in 2011 and has since worked on a variety of project types including complete streets design, large-scale regional bicycle and pedestrian master plans, citywide and community bicycle and pedestrian plans, and bikeway feasibility studies. Jack’s background is Landscape Architecture, but he also has substantial planning expertise. Notable recent projects include the Illinois State Bike Transportation Plan, Cleveland, OH Complete and Green Streets Typologies Plan and Snelling Ave. Multimodal Transportation Plan.

CRAIG WILLIAMS is the Alta Chicago Office Manager and brings more than 30 years of diverse experience in transportation planning, engineering and program management, both with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and in the private sector. Over the past two decades, a primary focus has been facilitating livable, pedestrian-friendly communities, such that residents and visitors are offered the opportunity to ‘leave your keys at home’, and walk, stroll or roll to life’s everyday destinations.



Value Propositions in Landscape Architecture By Terry Warriner Ryan // FASLA


hen considering the value of designed landscapes, let us start with the idea that, unlike architecture, all landscapes provide ecosystem benefits. These services may include carbon sequestration, flood control, protection of habitat, increased biodiversity, recycled organic wastes, and many others. As in nature, the benefits are poorly understood, not generally monitored or measured, change with growth and sometimes, sadly, degrade. They are, to a large extent, economically invisible to most people and often appreciated only after they have vanished. This is at least in part due to the fact that ecosystems are complex, interdependent and influenced by small changes. An integration of ecological thinking with traditional development (plants that treat water, versus a water treatment plant) is needed. As LAF Executive Director Barbara Deutsch suggests, “there needs to be performance objectives established related to the multiple social, economic, and ecological benefits and a process by which to measure performance towards those objectives in quantifiable terms.” Impacts must be evaluated, and design must be followed up by assessment, including not just construction and maintenance costs, but also long term bio-physical and social impacts. This assessment may be difficult, but it is worth trying in order to overcome the issue of economic invisibility. If we use math and science to evaluate our designs, the discovery of value will give us purpose, prove the efficacy of our work, and help us to replicate our successes and avoid failures. I have been advocating that our ILASLA members submit their projects to the LAF Landscape Performance Series, an online set of resources to determine values and provide

tools for evaluating performance. These tools include calculators for determining energy savings due to green roofs, gallons of runoff reduced annually, or average energy savings due to trees planted adjacent to a wall. The intent of these tools is to quantify the value that these types of alternatives bring to a project, making a solid case for choosing green solutions.

IF ECONOMIC VALUE IS DERIVED FROM THE RELATIVE USEFULNESS OF GOODS AND SERVICES, AND THAT USEFULNESS IS EXPRESSED IN DOLLARS, THEN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS NEED TO START TALKING ABOUT DOLLARS. Landscape architects create value. Humans tend to view landscape values in terms of how they affect us in the short term (as opposed to Thoreau, Emerson and Rousseau, who may think nature is perfect in and of itself ). In particular, people are often concerned by how these solutions impact our collective pocketbooks. If economic value is derived from the relative usefulness of goods and services, and that usefulness is expressed in dollars, then Landscape Architects need to start talking about dollars. We need to go beyond the concept that home landscaping costs can be recaptured when you sell your home. Documented examples abound. People spend 10-12% more when shopping in business districts with flourishing trees. User Day Methodology estimates that in Philadelphia every one acre of vegetated land provides $0.71 a day in present value, or $19,631.50 over a 40 year period. The first protected bike lane

in the U.S. led to a 49% increase in retail sales from local businesses along the route. In some cases, we just may not know the value of some of the things we do. When we design a garden for pollinators, the flowers do not invoice the bees and the bees do not invoice the farmers. The value of ecosystem services provided by honeybees worldwide has been estimated at 190 billion dollars. What value did your garden add? Landscape values may transcend the economic. What is the value of an outdoor classroom? If used twice a year in place of a classroom, the real estate value could be estimated. This measurement, however, ignores the value of learning outside, breathing fresh air, having an outdoor laboratory or studio, and being in touch with natural elements. There is evidence that designed landscapes affect our psychological wellbeing. For example, significant positive effects of well-being offered by exposure to nature have been found to be equal to one-third the impact of being married, and one-tenth the impact of being employed, as opposed to unemployed. Access to parks may move children from obesity to healthy weight. These values could perhaps be expressed in avoided medical costs, but what is the personal value to the individual who is unemployed or not married, or to the child with low self-esteem? These values are immeasurable. And then there is beauty, which Keats tells us is truth. Beauty is the perceptual experience of pleasure to the observer, understood through the senses. Many classical philosophers saw beauty as a supreme value, in the implicit order and harmony of the Cosmos. Or, as Holmes Rolston said, “In nature, a great deal of value exists out-

[continued on page 8]


Views: Value Propositions in Landscape Architecture [continued from page 7] side of our evaluating consciousness.” The modern view gives more credit to the observer, and de-emphasizes its morality. It also ignores the concept of elegance. I once told Bill Thompson, former editor of Landscape Architecture magazine, that one could define beauty as ecological fitness (moral and scientific elegance), but, in truth, I think beauty goes beyond that. Dostoevsky observed that mankind will be saved by beauty. To paraphrase Roger Housden, the perception of beauty (unlike prettiness or

mere decoration) can empty one’s self and fill it with a sense of the divine – the singularity of nature outside of human intervention. What is that worth? TERRY WARRINER RYAN, FASLA, is a partner and licensed landscape architect at Jacobs/ Ryan Associates, She is a former Illinois Chapter Trustee and is currently the Chair of the ILASLA Marketing Committee.

Sources of Information Roger Cohn. “Putting a Price on The Real Value of Nature,” Environment 360, interview with Pavan Sukhdev, 05 Jan 2012. Ecosystem Valuation. Ecosystem Valuation, online resource. Landscape Architecture Foundation. Online resource. Ernest Partridge and Holmes Rolston, III. “Values in Nature: An Exchange,” The Online Gadfly; excepts reprinted from several sources. Ernest Partridge strikes a ground between anthropocentric and Rolston’s views, and argues that values may require an evaluator who is “sentient, reflective and rational, but perhaps only as an ingredient in the evaluation transaction, since they do not create, but only discover value.” Center for Neighborhood Technology and American Rivers. The Value of Green Infrastructure; A Guide to Recognizing Its Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits. New York City Department of Transportation. Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets. Merriam Webster. Definition of the word beauty: “the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.” Merriam Webster. Definition of the word Cosmos; “an orderly harmonious systematic universe.” John Keats. “ ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Fyodor Dostoevsky. The Idiot. The actual quote is “Beauty will save the world.” Roger Housden. “The Value of Beauty,” Huffington Post; January 4, 2004. Singularity Symposium. What is the best definition of Singularity?; Definition of Singularity: “a point where a measured variable reaches unmeasurable or infinite value.”


Barlett Seminar Series

Reducing Disputes in the Field By Christine Esposito

“Ask not what details you can draw but ask what those details can do for you,” was among the tips Leo Schlossberg gave at the last Bartlett Seminars presentation, titled Construction Administration: Efficiency in the Studio and Success in the Field. Mr. Schlossberg owns Cary Concrete Products and shared his insights from the field. Many of his key points revolved around intent. Know what you intend, he said, and clearly convey it so that you get what you you’re looking for aesthetically, structurally, durability-wise and in measurable sustainability.

with site conditions, clients and contractors always varying. These conditions impact the amount of time you can spend on design. He contrasted that point with automobile design, in which a company produces hundreds of thousands of vehicles and can “think deeply about door handles. No one here can take that much time to think about a design element,” he observed.

All the more reason to be clear about intent. “When you’re clear on your own intent, you can more effectively communicate to all who consume your drawings,” he said. The Bartlett Seminars presentations are a professional enrichment series for landscape architects sponsored by Bartlett Tree Experts.

Cary Concrete Products owner Leo Schlossberg said he’s seen specifications that borrow words from other industries and as a result do not help convey the landscape architect’s intent. He suggested that if you don’t understand what you’re drawing, it’s better not to show it.

Other suggestions included: • Be consistent. If you show something more than once in a drawing, be sure to describe it the same way. But first ask yourself, “What is the point of repeating this?” You may only need to say it once, and if so, think about the best place to say it. • If you don’t understand what you’re drawing, don’t show it. Or go learn about it. Guessing won’t do you any good. • Differentiate in your mind between performance and prescription. This is true for details and specs. Do you need a 3” concrete slab? Or does it need to take certain loads? Make it performance-based, and let the specialists figure it out. • If you’re not going to take responsibility for a design – a 3” slab, for instance – state who will be responsible. Then show as little as possible. Schlossberg stressed that every design a landscape architect develops is a prototype,

To see the full lecture go to



Photo and graphic courtesy of Ian Lockwood, Glatting Jackson


Creating Great Places By Kara Riggio // Metropolitan Planning Council


reat public spaces are urban gems. They are host to a variety of activities that bring people together for any number of reasons: conversation, music, games, relaxation, dining…the list goes on. Take the High Line in New York City, for example – the park offers lush gardens for meandering, inviting conversation spaces and carts where visitors can purchase food, beverages, crafts and other goodies. It is easy to lose track of time and spend an entire afternoon taking it all in. For most communities, however, creating their own High Line – elevated or otherwise – is out of reach. Limited resources and capacity often halt plans for grandiose new public spaces. But what if creating great public spaces didn’t require astronomical budgets and daily staff maintenance? What if the aspects that make the High Line special were not literally over our heads, but rather part of our everyday experience walking down the street? What makes a street feel like a place, a destination? We at the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) think Placemak-


ing has something to offer this conversation. Placemaking provides an opportunity for communities of all sizes to create their own gems, places that have meaning and beauty – not through a fancy design process, but by focusing on a people-centered approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking can be used to improve the spectrum of public spaces, from streets and sidewalks to buildings and parks, to foster healthy, social, and economically viable communities. Placemaking is less about design and more about a community coming together to create active and engaging places. Focusing energies on interventions that are lighter, quicker and cheaper, as suggested by the Project for Public Spaces, can be the antidote to fancy and costly design, even if a space is transformed just for a short while. Changing a space temporarily allows for experimentation where underused spaces become laboratories that are quickly ready for use and the community can see change happen right away. Great public spaces have four key qualities: they are visible and easy to get to and

around, they are comfortable and appear safe and clean, there is a variety of activity happening simultaneously and throughout the day, and there are opportunities to socialize. Cities around the world are recognizing that safe, well-used public spaces are important building blocks for healthy communities and pay economic dividends for their neighborhoods and region. MPC sees Placemaking as a way to create vibrant public spaces throughout the City of Chicago and the region. Placemaking can be done on a single vacant lot or in a massive train station. One project that exemplifies the scalability of Placemaking is MPC’s annual Placemaking contest, which was designed to examine how Placemaking is used in a variety of contexts. The 2012 contest, Space In Between, sought out the most creative and interactive temporary uses of vacant space. The results were tremendous. One of the three winning projects, Climb Jump Leap Imagine, was developed by a group of young women who wanted to see something positive happen on a vacant lot in their neighborhood on Chicago’s South

Side. The young women selected the site and developed a community engagement process to create a new vision. They knocked on doors, created live twitter feeds and installed life-size chalk boards where people could write their ideas for what the space could become. The community wanted and very much needed a park. The women worked to clean up the site and as they worked, other community members stepped up to help. One organizer likened it to “an open workshop for the community.” The end result was that the community planned, designed and constructed a park that everyone feels responsible for and continues to care for. The 2013 contest shifted in scale from micro to macro to focus on Chicago’s Union Station. Entrants were invited to reimagine three sites at the historic station, their designs answering the question, “How can we bring Chicago’s Union Station back to life?” The winners would have the opportunity to implement their ideas. Again, the results were overwhelming. Twenty-five entries were submitted and the winners implemented their ideas for one week in August. In the short term, the activation provided visitors an opportunity to play outdoor games, exercise and relax in the station’s Great Hall. In the long term, the activation is helping station officials think about making Union Station a more active and engaging place. Through our work, MPC continues to encourage policy makers to institutionalize Placemaking as part of City planning and policy. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and with the efforts of former Chicago Department of Transportation


Commissioner Gabe Klein, the City of Chicago is making progress toward this goal with the Make Way for People initiative, which aims to create public spaces that cultivate community and culture in Chicago’s neighborhoods though Placemaking. The four pillars of the initiative each capitalize on underutilized street space by transforming it into a place for people. People Streets close the street to vehicular traffic. Streets are painted and furnished with street furniture and programmed to help draw people on to the street in order to create a plaza-like feeling while improving safety at intersections. People Spots take advantage of space in the street—usually parking spaces—to create outdoor seating and dining while People Plazas are converted plazas and triangles that benefit from increased programming. The City started small in 2012 by selecting four neighborhoods to implement People Spots. The program has been so popular that many chambers of commerce and other local organizations are working to develop their own People Spots. Make Way for People is a compelling example of the possibilities that streets have to offer as vibrant public spaces. Small-scale transformations can have tremendous impact on communities as they continue to pursue the (re)creation of their own special places. The success of projects like the Placemaking contest and Make Way for People underscore the impact that small-scale changes can have on a place. Small steps and low costs increase the feasibility of a project and make Placemaking accessible to any community trying to create a gem that is authentically its own.

KARA RIGGIO joined MPC in 2012 and works primarily on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Stormwater Management, and Placemaking. Her work focuses on establishing BRT as a new mode of transportation and community development in Chicago; helping communities use green infrastructure to manage stormwater such as along the Milwaukee Avenue Green Development Corridor; and developing safe, well-used public spaces. A native of Connecticut, Kara taught in public schools for six years before pursuing a master’s degree in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois-Chicago. She has worked with the League of Illinois Bicyclists and studied in China on a Fulbright-Hayes scholarship. Kara lives in Edgewater and enjoys spending her free time with her husband and their baby.

trainYARD | reactivate union station. A SPACETIME thought production



DSC: Indianapolis Cultural Trail (image courtesy of A Place of Sense)

Building Better Bikeways By Mark de la Vergne // Sam Schwartz Engineering


ver the last twenty years, numerous communities in Illinois have made a commitment to building safer streets for bicyclists through construction of on-street bicycle facilities such as bike lanes and marked shared lanes. The addition of this on-street infrastructure has encouraged thousands of people to bike to work, to the train, or just for fun. However, a number of studies have shown that these facilities only appeal to a small segment of the population that feel safe riding next to motor vehicles. While the majority of the population is interested in riding their bike more


frequently, they are deterred due to concerns about their personal safety riding on the street, with traffic.

With the increase in bicycling across the state, it is likely that many more communities will join this list shortly.

In response to these safety concerns, cities across the United States have taken a cue from some of the best bike cities in Europe and built facilities that provide more protection from vehicles. The City of Chicago has been a local and national leader in building these “protected” bike lanes, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledging to construct 100 miles of protected bike lanes by 2015. Other Illinois cities, including Evanston and Oak Park, also have constructed or planned new protected bike lanes to encourage more ridership.

The movement to provide safer bikeways is exciting, but it must be stressed that the overall success of this infrastructure will depend on its design. These facilities must not only be safe, so that people will feel comfortable using them, they must be aesthetically appealing to generate support among elected officials and people who aren’t going to ride on them. There are a number of different types of designs for these facilities, a number of which are outlined on the following page.

and can be damaged easily by vehicles. One of the most frequent complaints about cycle tracks is how the bollards look, from the time of installation to after months of wear and tear. PLANTERS Separating a cycle track with planters can provide an increased level of protection and look considerably better than bollards. Many cycle tracks with planters look like an extension of a streetscape project. There is, however, a considerably higher cost to using planters, especially when accounting for their ongoing maintenance requirements.

Buffered Bike Lanes A buffered bike lane is similar to a traditional bike lane, in that it is typically located between a travel lane and a parking lane. The difference is that a buffered bike lane has striping that provides separation between the bike lane and the travel lane and/or the parking lane. This design is permitted by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The main benefit of buffered bike lanes is that they increase the distance between a bicyclist and potential danger source, such as a car driving by or an open door from a parked car. Unlike some other designs, however, buffered bike lanes do not provide physical protection from traffic, which is seen as their main weakness in terms of appealing to concerned bicyclists.

Cycle Tracks One of the most exciting innovations in bike facility design is cycle tracks. A cycle track is a bikeway that is located along a street and is physically separated from travel lanes, parking lanes, and sidewalks. Cycle tracks provide the feeling a bike trail, but are located within the street. A survey of NYC bike riders showed that the majority of people feel much safer riding in cycle tracks, whether they are one-way or two- way. There are a number of different ways to separate cycle tracks from travel lanes and vehicular lanes, including: BOLLARDS The quickest and most affordable way to build protection is through the use of bollards. Most cities use bollards as part of typical roadway projects, so they have them on hand and can install them quickly. However, bollards are not always an aesthetically pleasing design element,

CURBS Some consider the ideal solution for separating cycle tracks to be curb separation, which prohibits motor vehicles from using the space. This has a much higher cost than some alternatives, due to the additional infrastructure required. Further, curb separation can present challenges with reconfiguring drainage along an existing street. Curbs are being proposed on a number of cycle tracks projects planned for Chicago, including the cycle track on State Street, between 26th Street and Garfield Boulevard/55th Street.

Raised Cycle Track Raised cycle tracks are vertically separated from travel and parking lanes, and may be at the same or a different elevation than the sidewalk. Raised cycle tracks often need some horizontal separation or buffering from adjacent sidewalks, for both bicyclist and pedestrian safety. Similar to curb separation, raised cycle tracks clearly define the space for bicyclists and prevent motor vehicle use. Drainage is often a challenge with raised cycle tracks, however, and there is a need to provide mountable curbs for access.

The growing demand for bike facilities across Illinois is evident, and meeting that demand will require safe, high quality facilities that make bicyclists and non-riders both happy. There is a unique opportunity for landscape architects and urban designers to work closely with engineers to design and construct bike lanes that not only function safely, but serve as examples of great design. Combining the expertise of these disciplines will allow communities to design and build great streets not only for bicyclists, but for all of us.

MARK DE LA VERGNE is a Principal with Sam Schwartz Engineering and serves as the Director of Transportation Planning. Described by ENR Midwest as “one of the nation’s leading experts on multi-modal transportation”, Mr. de la Vergne has worked with communities across the country to increase their transportation options and reduce transportation costs.  He was integral in Chicago’s transformation into one of the best big cities for walking and biking, spearheading a number of the city’s key planning and engineering initiatives.  He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.  

Urban Trail While most shared use trails and paths are located in parks or forest preserves and are used for recreation, many cities are coming up with innovative ways to integrate these types of facilities into their urban core to encourage people to ride. For instance, the unique 8 mile long Indianapolis Cultural Trail was completed in 2013, and allows people to travel all over Downtown Indianapolis by bike. In Chicago, the Bloomingdale Trail will convert an abandoned rail line into a cutting edge multi-use facility that will connect neighborhoods on the Northwest side of the city. 13

Efforts to retrofit seating along narrow walking routes can activate pedestrian spaces as memorable urban places (Image courtesy of Andersonville Chamber of Commerce)

Streets As Complete Places By Nilay Mistry // site design group, ltd.


he recent rise of Complete Street initiatives in municipalities across the nation marks an excellent opportunity for landscape architects to impact neglected public spaces associated with urban transportation. While concerns for safety lead the charge for recalibrating transportation modes on city streets, designers must draw upon long-standing models for place-making to transform streets into valuable public spaces. Landscape architects can contribute greatly by leading interdisciplinary efforts to maintain connections between public space design and local rhythms of climate, to create beautiful spaces for people to share.

Complete Streets Ideals Several advocacy groups and professional organizations, including the American Society of Landscape Architects, formed the National Complete Streets Coalition in 2005 to promote forms of pedestrian accessible mobility in transportation legislation throughout the United States. Complete Street policies seek to counteract planning 14

philosophies of the 20th century that prioritized the rapid movement of automobile traffic throughout cities. The results of this auto-centric approach to planning are clearly seen today on many roads, with highspeed lanes of traffic that are dangerous for pedestrians to cross, and virtually no space to navigate with a bicycle. Complete Street policies offer a critical view of the inventory of roads in the United States, and aim to safely integrate multiple modes of traffic on streets, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit riders alongside automobile drivers. The users of these multiple modes are considered in every road project, from arterials to alleys, from new construction to maintenance plan revisions. Complete Street policies have been formally adopted by over 500 jurisdictions at municipal and state levels. The ability of Complete Street policies to connect networks of intermodal transportation can be particularly effective in large cities where the highest rates of pedestrian fatalities occur, and existing routes can be efficiently linked. The Complete Streets Chicago Design Guidelines by

the Chicago Department of Transportation assert the importance of establishing safe pedestrian connections between modes of transport, to effectively carry out these policies. Pedestrians are given primacy in the consideration of built interventions such as road diets that reduce the number of driving lanes on a street to slow traffic, and all-way crosswalks at downtown intersections. Automobile drivers who commute to the city from any distance will inevitably park their cars and become a pedestrian at least once before reaching a destination, so the Complete Streets Chicago Design Guidelines maintain priorities that serve every urban participant. Strategies for traffic calming as part of Complete Streets programs can also employ vegetation to make streets safer for pedestrians. Increased density of street trees and low shrubs can create visual cues to drivers to reduce speeds along a densely populated street, as well as indicate upcoming pedestrian crosswalks. Additionally, road diets often generate space in pedestrian walking zones for amenities like shade trees,

specialty paving, and furnishings. Pedestrian refuge islands between lanes of vehicular traffic can be protected by curbed planters and made more visible with colorful vegetation. Landscape architects involved with transportation planning and urban design projects are in the unique position to consider Complete Street policies early in the design process. However, opportunities such as retrofitting existing streets and sidewalks allow design firms and landscape contractors of all types to participate in the movement to reclaim streets as public space.

Supplimental Policies Resistance to adopting Complete Streets policies in some cases has come from skepticism that bike lanes would actually be used, or from opposition to relinquishing any automobile capacity on a street. A proposal to lose parking stalls for the sake of curb bump-outs, for instance, can be a tough idea to champion in some constituencies. Broader criticism of Complete Streets policies questions if, after the effort and financial investment to implement recommended projects, communities would appreciate the pedestrian safety features if the resultant streets continue to suffer a lack of pedestrian circulation and habitation. There is no question that safety for all users should be of chief importance when designing streets, but what value can be placed on designing these very same spaces to be beautiful and motivate people to engage in the public realm? Can activating public spaces along transportation routes further carry out the priorities regarding safety in Complete Street policies? These questions were discussed during multiple workshops at the recent Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Transportation Summit held in Chicago during November 2013. Participants in the summit worked to update guidelines and discuss methods to lobby policymakers and promote the organization’s goal to create more livable, walkable cities. The CNU’s Project for Transportation Reform has outlined their Sustainable Street Network Principles in a slim publication that shares many of the same ideals found in Complete Streets policies, such as connectivity between various modes of transportation and multiple route options between destinations. The CNU seeks to expand the value of the street, from a path of movement to a place for social interaction, commerce, and thoughtful connection between cities and adjacent natural resources. Rather than promoting

modes of transportation to quickly move users through dense cities, walking is emphasized in the design of valued urban spaces. Speeds of movement generated by human bodies, not vehicles, allow people to share space with other pedestrians where they may bump into an old friend, notice products for sale in a shop window, and ultimately develop a stronger connection to the society they are a part of. The scale of buildings that define exterior spaces and organization of landmarks must work in conjunction with transportation modes to create memorable streets that the CNU seeks in as many communities as possible. Bike lane reconfiguration or pedestrian refuge islands are only partially effective, in the New Urbanist view, if these streets are not designed to accommodate a human body. Landscape ordinances often require screening of unsightly parking or planting spaces in view from heavily trafficked roads, but more can be done to coordinate with the ideals of Complete Streets and CNU to ensure that projects at the smallest scale can contribute to the pedestrian experience. Beyond technical measures to promote vigorous street tree growth, a complex task on its own, seating spaces for pedestrian resting and conversation should be explored. Mandated parking lot planting often addresses urban heat islands, but breaks in perimeter screening should facilitate connectivity to local pedestrian routes.

in the warmer seasons when cooking indoors is uncomfortable for most apartment dwellers. Outdoor cooking in these public spaces by vendors who bring their own power and water supplies generate impromptu dining areas and improve business for other vendors. Safety regulations in the United States encumber many such emergent enterprises, but the growing popularity of food trucks, which move to various public spaces throughout the day, creates phenomena of similar benefit. Landscape architects and other players in urban design efforts must continue to value the pedestrian experience alongside the movement of vehicular traffic when considering quality in street design. Complete Streets policies are aimed at solving critical issues of safety in our transportation networks, but it is the responsibility of designers to capture the momentum of this movement and incorporate additional ideas to create streets that are valued and memorable places.

Program and Locality Increased pedestrian safety and human scaled public spaces create conditions for active public streets by serving the simple activity of walking. Policies that allow a wider array of programs that change over various time scales can strengthen the connection between public space and the local context, both cultural and physical. Throughout a single day, markets that serve pedestrians walking to work in the morning can transform into cafés for dining in the evening, allowing more opportunity for local residents to take part in civic life. The rhythm and variety of activities that can be fostered in public space inevitably relate to the physical climate of the region. In many cold-weather cities of North America, road closures for street festivals and parades are commonplace in summer months when residents relish opportunities to be outdoors. Looking at models from the tropics, evening street markets in Southeast Asian cities feature additional take-away home cooked meals

NILAY MISTRY, ASLA, APA has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Illinois and a Master of Landscape Architecture in Urban Design degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Nilay has multiple years of experience in interdisciplinary practice with design, research, and community outreach projects throughout the world. He recently served as a full-time faculty member at the Chulalongkorn University International Program in Design and Architecture (INDA) in Bangkok, Thailand. He is currently a research fellow for the Chicago Expander program at Archeworks exploring Chicago’s infrastructural networks. Nilay practices as a landscape architect and urban designer with Chicago-based site design group, ltd.



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Elevation, Spring 2014  
Elevation, Spring 2014