The 5-minute intersection repair
Architect and urban designer Tom Low says that Charlotte, North Carolina, is experiencing a "tidal wave" of infill projects, bringing in more pedestrians, cyclists, and scooter riders that conflict with the city's automobile-oriented street network built when the city had different priorities. "There is a growing need to collaborate with the community on our public realm," he says.
As a trained and experienced urbanist, Low sees the possibilities in intersections like the one, above left, where 7th Street joins with Caswell Road and Pecan Avenue. The intersection is intimidating for pedestrians with its wide crossings and the unimpeded sight lines that encourage fast-moving traffic. Low took out his iPhone and made a five-minute sketch of a redesign using the photo edit app. The design would greatly improve the pedestrian experience—while allowing drivers to avoid long delays through a multiphase traffic signal.
Low based his design on a peanut-shaped roundabout that he had seen in High Point, North Carolina (above right). Low, of Civic By Design, says the obvious quickness and informality of the sketch is an advantage in presenting the idea. It gets people to think, but doesn't say "final drawing" or "polished idea that couldn't be improved." Nevertheless, this quick drawing benefits from Low's artistic eye and long-experience in observing and designing urban places. Others may need some practice with a device more suited to drawing.