Downtown Greensboro is undergoing a $25 million streetscape project that is going to transform some of the streets in the downtown from roads into pedestrian-cyclist-outdoor dining- and bench-sitting friendly streets.
But one major problem with the downtown is that it has two “roads” that cut right through the middle – Friendly Avenue and Market Street.
The website for Strong Towns (https://www.strongtowns.org/) often has articles that note the difference between a “street” and a “road” and combining the worst features of both in a “stroad.”
This is Strong Towns on the terms:
“We’ve written for years about the fundamental confusion between a street and a road. A city street should be a place for people to congregate, shop, socialize, and do all the human things that produce value for the community. A road—or highway—should be a high-speed, efficient connection between two places. These functions are mutually incompatible, because one requires fast movement and predictable driving conditions; the other requires slow vehicles for an environment that can safely accommodate chaos and serendipity. When you try to combine them, you get the worst of both worlds: the stroad.”
Calling Market and Friendly “stroads” might be a stretch. They are designed to move traffic through town as quickly as possible. They are wide with wide lanes, one way so you don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic, and the lights are timed so you don’t have to stop, or even slow down.
Years ago the town leaders decided that the best thing to do with the downtown was to widen the streets, make them one way and eliminate that pesky on-street parking so people could zip into work and fly back out again with the least possible delay. Much of that has been fixed with one-way streets made two-way, parking back on the streets and on Davie Street some of the absurdly wide street was even turned into diagonal parking.
But the two raceways Market and Friendly remain. Why? The fast moving traffic is not conducive to the type of environment most people talk about when they discuss what they’d like to see in a downtown area, and certainly not to “chaos and serendipity.” Really does anyone want to sit at an outdoor table with cars going 40 to 45 mph or faster a few feet away.
Have you ever heard anyone say, “What we need to promote development downtown are one-way streets that encourage people not to even slow down as they fly past”? Or “What downtowns need are a couple of streets set up for fearless young drivers to race each other”?
So why do we still have these two raceways through the downtown? According to traffic planners there is enough right of way to put diagonal parking on a portion of Market. That’s not expensive, would take up a good bit of the roadway and slow traffic down considerably.
Both streets could also be made two-way, which would also accomplish the same goal. But when you consider the history Greensboro has in making one-way streets two-way, that might be a mountain too high. Mayor Keith Holliday had making Greene Street two-way as a goal before leaving office in 2007. Now 14 years later, despite the efforts of many former mayors and councilmembers, it continues to be a two-way, one-way, two-way street.
Although for at least the 50th time in the past 20 years, the word around town is that the ridiculous and dangerous travel pattern on Greene Street is about to be changed.
Once that happens, maybe someone will start working on Friendly and Market.