Friday, October 11, 2013

Plans for Wider Xinsheng S. Rd. Sidewalks

This is old news now, but worth a mention.  According to the Liberty Times, Taipei is planning on expanding the sidewalks along the section of Xinsheng S. Rd. between Roosevelt and Xinhai Roads from 3 meters wide to 5 to 8 meters as part of its "Shaded Boulevard Pedestrian Environment Improvement Design Plan" (林蔭大道人行環境改善設計計劃).  Two car lanes will be removed, leaving this section of Xinsheng with three lanes in each direction.  New Construction Office Director Chen Der-yih (陳德意) claimed that this will disrupt traffic flow but within "tolerable" levels.  Construction is set to take place next year.  The new sidewalk space will be used for bicycle lanes and seating areas for adjacent restaurants.  Other streets slated for pedestrian improvements are Heping West Rd. Sec. 3 and Roosevelt Rd. Sections 5 and 6, though the former has encountered local opposition.
I'm definitely happy to see Taipei allocate more space to non-driving uses, just because of the environmental, safety and transportation efficiency benefits that discouraging driving brings.  That said, I think Taipei's focus on major boulevards is misguided- generally speaking the sidewalks on Taipei's main roads are adequate for the amount of pedestrians they have, though they certainly do need more space for cyclists.  This is certainly the case on this part of Xinsheng S. Rd: though not the most spacious sidewalk in Taipei, the west side of the road is never gridlocked and feels very safe, and the east side is even better.  Adding cycling paths would be great, and would provide a link between the Gongguan Ubike station and the Xinhai/Xinsheng station, but from the pedestrian's perspective this is already one of the nicer walks in Taipei.  Instead of focus on wide streets like Xinsheng, which could be better but are fine as is, I think Taipei should focus first on the areas that actually make walking terrible: medium-width streets like Lishui St., Jingwen St., Jinhua St. and so on that are wide enough for cars to drive fast but have no sidewalks, and intersections that lack crosswalks (like Shida Rd./Heping Rd., Zhongxiao W. Rd./Gongyuan Rd., or Xinsheng S. Rd. and Roosevelt Rd.).  In these situations, Taipei blatantly favors driving, refusing in the first case even to provide safe passage for pedestrians, even though the urban environment is far better suited to walking than driving.  It's when Taipei addresses these problems that we will know the government is seriously committed to improving the pedestrian environment rather than simply making cosmetic changes.

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