CNU 18 offers cutting-edge street design ideas

Cutting-edge research proves street design matters where effective emergency response is concerned, and suburban sprawl patterns harm response times. But don’t take it just from us; get it straight from one of the co-authors of a study published in the November 2009 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that definitively links suburban sprawl development to longer emergency response times.

Dr. Matthew Trowbridge joins Marcy McInelly, Eric Dumbaugh, Andrew Mortensen, and Sara Zimmerman to discuss Building Safer Streets for Healthier Neighborhoods – one of the many Initiative Workshops at CNU 18 New Urbanism: Rx For Healthy Places, May 19-22, in Atlanta.

From 9 a.m. to Noon on Wednesday, May 19, learn how New Urbanism can be used to provide a broader, more comprehensive approach to health and life safety, and the latest news from CNU’s Emergency Response & Street Design Initiative, which has engaged fire marshals and new urbanists to find common solutions that provide great streets.

Led by McInelly, an associate principal with SERA; Dumbaugh, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University; Mortensen, a senior transportation planner with Transpo Group; and Zimmerman, an attorney with Public Health Law & Policy, you will see how safety, liability, and emergency response are often barriers to the implementation of successful livable streets. You will examine the specific concerns that engineers, lawyers, and fire officials have with livable streets, and discuss how to overcome them.

Street design gets a major makeover, too, with the new CNU/ITE Recommended Practice, Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach. CNU 18 has this covered, too. Among the advanced New Urbanism 202 courses is You Can Have it All – great places and practical thoroughfares – with the CNU/ITE Manual, featuring Lucy Gibson, principal at Smart Mobility, Inc.; Philip Erickson, president of Community Design + Architecture; Paul Moore and Troy Russ, principals at AECOM Design + Planning; and Ed Schock, mayor of Elgin, Ill., which is the first city to begin putting its words into deeds.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday, May 20, they will pore over the new guidebook on how to design "big" streets that balance among the sometimes-competing modes and uses of a public street, and how skepticism on the parts of both public and agencies that this is even possible can be a barrier to achieving the manual’s goals. Learn practical tips and see case studies for how to convince the "traveling public" and agencies that we can design streets that are both great places and serviceable for traffic.

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UPDATE: This session from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesday in Grand Salon C, at 255 Courtland Street NE, offers a comprehensive overview of safer street design from engineering, legal, and medical perspectives. The day’s agenda includes:

Dr. Trowbridge leads off, discussing the medical implications of sprawl cited in the paper Urban Sprawl and Delayed Ambulance Arrival in the U.S., followed by Dumbaugh and a discussion of the influence of design on motorists’ behavior, and how “we can design environments that tell motorists what to do.”

Zimmerman demystifies the legal liability questions that arise with any street design work from the more realistic perspective of managing risk rather than trying to eliminate it, and raises a provocative thought: Might you actually raise your liability exposure if you don’t use standards that are proven to be safer?

Mortensen bats clean-up with a look at macro- and micro-scale measurements of connectivity, and unveils a new measurement of connectivity developed by his firm, the Transpo Group. The Route Directness Index, defined here, works like this:

RDI compares the straight-line distance between two points with the actual route between those points. A higher RDI value means people have a more direct and desirable route from point A to point B; a lower value means people have to go out of their way.

“We’ve never had all this compelling research together all in one place,” McInelly said.

Which is a pretty compelling reason to go.

NOTE: This session is free, and open to the public. Please spread the word, especially to members of the Atlanta region's Fire Service.

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