CORAL GABLES CHARRETTE: TRANSPORTATION
5. Walkability requires the pedestrian to feel safe. For the pedestrian to feel safe, low speed traffic on the street is required. Pedestrians stricken by vehicles traveling with speeds at or below 25 miles per hour have a far greater probability of surviving. Also, higher vehicle speeds generate more noise, thus reducing pedestrian comfort levels.
Although Coral Gables is known as one of America's garden cities, and although, as stated earlier, the grid of streets in Downtown is ideal for walkability, the Downtown is currently less than ideal for pedestrian strolls to work, shopping and cultural activities. A major problem is the excessive design speed of Downtown's thoroughfares. In Coral Gables, the width and geometry of the roadways cater to fast-moving traffic rather than providing a comfortable, pedestrian-friendly walking environment. The mandated minimum 30-mph speed limit set by County standards pre- vents fine-tuning of the street designs to provide comfort to pedestrians. Prioritizing vehicular mobility can preclude a high-quality urban experience.
Sidewalk pedestrians thrive when they are protected by parked cars and when auto speeds are limited to 20 to 25 mph. Therefore, the current design assumptions underlying the uniform speed limit should be adjusted to allow lower design and posted speeds. Because Miami-Dade County is the jurisdiction currently responsible for street design standards, the City must negotiate this change with the County.
A precedent exists with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, an agency that has adopted a flexible approach to transportation standards. It allows lower design speeds on streets within walkable, traditional neighborhood developments. Certification of lower design speeds requires evidence of walkable land use design and street structure. Miami-Dade County could insist on this same guarantee. Lower design and posted speeds can be allowed when both land use and street conditions are likely to yield heavy pedestrian use.
Specific street classification types can be defined for walkable communities, with the explicit purpose of streets serving pedestrian needs first and automotive needs second. Design speed influences urban design features that encourage pedestrians: smaller and shorter curb radii, nar- rower vehicular lanes and parallel-parked cars, all of which tend to slow driving speed. The lower the design speed of the street, the more pedestrian friendly it can be.
A clarification of specific street types is proposed for the walkable center of downtown Coral Gables. These definitions are fully compatible with the City's Comprehensive Plan and should be accommodated by Miami-Dade County to allow the use of lower design speeds to enhance pedes- trian comfort and thus downtown vitality. The street categories are as follows: