Traffic Calming Solutions Debut in time for Storytellers: Historic Home Tour 2017

The following blog entry has been written by Brian Parker, President of Brady Heights Historic District, Inc.,  the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created in 1980 to serve the Brady Heights Historic District and its surrounding community. He has served in that role since July 2014.

Today I am incredibly proud and happy to share news of progress with regard to traffic calming in our neighborhood. Thanks to our efforts in the past year, the City of Tulsa has painted striped parking lanes on both sides of N. Denver Ave. between W. Fairview St. and W. Marshall St. as the first step towards making our neighborhood safer for both pedestrians and drivers alike.

The motivation for these efforts came to a head when a young girl was struck by a car driving on N. Denver Ave. and had her leg broken as a result in the Fall of 2016. This created a renewed effort to address issues with traffic speed in our neighborhood, helped along by presentations by Jeff Speck regarding walkability in downtown Tulsa as well as by Chuck Marohn from Strong Towns.

It was those presentations that helped spark our own tactical urbanism experiment on March 25th, 2017, as we closed down a block of N. Denver Ave. for our "Chalk the Walk" event. Not only did this event allow a local 3D chalk artist to envision a creative crosswalk design, it also engaged members of our community to contribute art to the street and to experience the street as a safe environment when typically that is not the case. It also allowed us to explore with options regarding how the lanes of N. Denver Ave. could be reimagined to provide a safer environment instead of the existing conditions where the street width encouraged high travel speeds.

After "Chalk the Walk," we had an open meeting with representatives from the City of Tulsa and began to explore the next steps towards a more permanent traffic calming solution than chalk drawings. With the help of CEC Corporation, the contractor working with the City, we were able to get traffic counting tubes placed in our neighborhood in May 2017. The results were a confirmation of our fears as residents of the neighborhood, as you'll see in the slides below.

With a majority of traffic traveling in excess of the posted 30 MPH speed limit, we qualified to have traffic calming applied designed and implemented, but mechanical issues with the City of Tulsa's equipment saw us waiting until today to get the first step put into place.

From W. Fairview St. at the south end of our neighborhood to the traffic circle at W. Marshall St., we now have permanently striped parking lanes on each side of N. Denver Ave. These striped parking lanes not only give the impression of a narrower travel lane for traffic--which will hopefully slow the rate of speed--but they also indicated where traffic should not be parked near intersections, which will make it safer for traffic to come onto N. Denver Ave. from the various side streets throughout the neighborhood. There are also future plans for new crosswalks to be painted at the intersections of N. Denver Ave. and John Hope Franklin Blvd., N. Denver Ave. and W. Jasper St., and N. Denver Ave. and W. Latimer St. Although they will not be the wild alternative crosswalk designs we imagined in March, they will nonetheless draw attention to the pedestrian uses of N. Denver Ave. in our community.

So what is our next step? Well, after letting some time pass, CEC Corporation will come back out to the neighborhood and set traffic tubes down again. Once they've collected data with the striped parking lanes in place, we'll be able to make a 1:1 comparison between the speed of traffic--and number of cars--that we saw prior to the parking lanes and what we saw after the lanes were striped. If the traffic data shows better compliance with the 30 MPH speed limit, then we'll know that this striping has had a positive effect; if the traffic numbers are still a matter of concern, we'll have to come back to the table with the City of Tulsa and plan our next steps to make the street safer for everyone using it.

We hope that our guests for Storytellers: Historic Home Tour 2017 appreciate the progress made here as they tour the neighborhood.