As we have told many people before, during and after Better Block Pikes Peak (BBPP), the fundamental purpose of BBPP was to experiment with the public realm. One of the experiments conducted was to see how vehicular traffic experienced the urban intervention. We discussed and debated what and how much that we would modify for the experiment. Some of our variables were mandated by the City of Colorado Springs, such as the width of the lanes that were maintained. For Pikes Peak Avenue, we maintained the width of one the two outside lanes on the street – or twelve feet (12′).
We also wanted to make sure that the intervention gave some preference to the pedestrian and bicyclist, so our largest debate was whether or not we changed the speed limit of the street to 5 mph. We started to make signs and prepare for this until…
Before I get to that… Let me start by saying that there were a LOT of great ideas from the community in putting BBPP in place. But perhaps one of the greatest ideas/suggestions came from Mr. Gerrit Slater, of Matrix Design Group. He suggested the use of the City’s new measurement equipment that measured the volume and velocity of vehicular traffic. When this started to fall in place, we decided to scrap the signs because we wanted a true measurement of how traffic would actually interact, rather than a sign suggesting that vehicles only travel 5 mph.
This proved to be the right choice. Although, we did not experience 5 mph vehicular traffic, the traffic speeds were slowed down enough to safely walk across one lane of traffic.
Because this was an experiment, we were prepared and equipped with our hypothesis, control data, the variable of the intervention to the street, data and our conclusions.
- Experiment: To Transform auto-dominated street, Pikes Peak Avenue, between Nevada and Tejon, into an urban street that becomes pedestrian-oriented. The 4-lane street with 60-degree angle parking on both sides of the street and in the center median is to be transformed into a 2-lane street, maintaining the 60-degree angle parking on the outer sides of the street only. The median is to become ‘a place for people’, and allow the people to experience amazing vista of ‘America’s Mountain’, Pikes Peak in a downtown setting.
- Hypothesis: The team expected to see a decrease in vehicular velocities, and potentially slow traffic to two red light cycles. We also expected to see a decrease in the volume of vehicles on the street.
- Control: Travel lanes were to remain as they are today, or 12-foot lanes. On-street parking was to remain for the outer lanes of traffic. Measurements for Pikes Peak Avenue commenced on Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 8:00 am and measured volume and velocity until Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 12:00 am.
- Variable: Decrease of two lanes of vehicular traffic for 24-hours, plus set up and take down time. The times where traffic was reduced to two lanes were from 6:00 am on Friday, September 21, 2012 until approximately 4:00 pm on Saturday, September 22, 2012. Set up occurred on Friday until 12:00 pm (noon); Take down occurred Saturday from noon until 4:00 pm.
- Data: The following charts, provided by Matrix Design Group and the City of Colorado Springs, show the changes in volume and velocity of Pikes Peak Avenue.
- Conclusion: By transforming Pikes Peak Avenue to a street where all modes of transportation can still occur, with an increased emphasis toward the pedestrian, vehicular traffic volumes increased and vehicular traffic velocities decreased.
This experiment of Better Block Pikes Peak was seen to be a great success, especially when it is combined with the time lapse video showing an increase of pedestrian traffic from normal conditions. The time lapse video also shows that vehicular traffic was not impeded by anymore than it is in its present condition. Traffic still made it through the block in one street light cycle.
Thank you again to the City of Colorado Springs and the Gerrit Slater for their efforts in the traffic experiment/intervention!
~ John W. Olson, RLA | LEED-AP | CNU-a