Ramble: Road-Widening Rant & More

Yesterday I Facebook Live’d a 30-minute walk through my neighborhood and down the nearest major arterial to the beach. You can watch/listen here if you like. I was honored to find that more people tuned in than I expected.

Nutshell: Florida Department of Transportation plans to widen East International Speedway Boulevard, and to add either a roundabout or a “signalized intersection” depending on public feedback. Thus far the public debate has focused almost entirely on the “Roundabout vs. Signal” aspect, and hardly at all on the fact that an already wide, high-speed road is being widened more, basically eliminating any hopes that some of the blighted properties along the road will be reborn as businesses. I also muse about vacant houses; homelessness; the idea that our landscaping practices are violent; and how fortunate I feel regardless to get to live at the beach.

You might have similar things happening on your city/town/region’s physical and social landscape.

Although my ideal would be to have the road stay the same width and become lined with grocery store, laundromat, and other essential services that would help create a more walkable neighborhood, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards here. I was feeling really down about it, but I reached out to the kind of people I reach out to when I need a boost (see next post), and I was able to loosen up, not feel so rigidly attached to my version of how things “should” be.

Trying to adopt a positive mind-set, I have the thought that perhaps, in our hurricane-prone region, we might be better off not building new buildings. FDOT also plans to widen the sidewalk for pedestrians and cyclists. It’s already wide enough — and with hardly any businesses, what the heck are people going to want to walk or cycle to?!

My “make the best of things” side says, “Well, maybe with the right plantings it could become some kind of linear nature park. And if the sidewalk’s really wide, we could fit espresso carts and other mobile nano-enterprises on there. Goods and services available on a moment’s notice, and easily evac’d if need be.”

In my experience, one of the most lifesaving peace-of-mind skills is being able to adopt a fresh viewpoint when things don’t go as I would want them to. At the same time, I am learning to contribute my original ideas while a debate is going on, rather than hanging back and giving up on communicating. It’s kind of a balancing act. Having a preference, yet being able to let go.

Regarding roads … Recently I read a super article from StrongTowns. They talk about roads vs. streets. Roads are meant to move people from point A to point B (mainly in cars); streets are meant to build wealth for cities, and be desirable places for people to spend time. (And a “stroad,” which I have read about elsewhere from StrongTowns people and other transportation experts, is a half-assed hybrid that ends up fulfilling neither a road’s nor a street’s purpose.)

Further Reading:

“Slow the Cars” (Charles Marohn, StrongTowns). “With a street, we’re trying to build a place. With a road, we’re trying to get from one place to another. Streets emphasize wealth creation. Roads are about movement.”