It wasn't the warmest day in a March that has been abnormally spring-like so far, but on Saturday, March 25th, 2017, the Brady Heights Historic District community came together to celebrate "Chalk the Walk" and envision a safer future on busy North Denver Avenue.
With the short 900 block of North Denver Avenue closed down to traffic from 9AM to 3PM, local 3D chalk artist Amber Crismond got to work taking her unique crosswalk design and transferring it to the pavement of the road.
With the normally busy street closed to traffic on what would normally be a traffic-heavy Saturday morning and afternoon, residents began to brave the chilly air and cloudy skies. With no traffic and no parked cars, the full width of the street could be observed; at 40 feet wide, the result is a street with 20 foot lanes northbound and southbound for vehicle travel. Since 10 foot wide travel lanes are the recommendation for speed limits of 25-30 MPH (North Denver Avenue is marked for 30 MPH speed limit except during school zone hours when it switches to 25 MPH), the available lane space doubles that recommendation. As learned from the Jeff Speck Walkability Study commissioned for downtown Tulsa, wider travel lanes encourage traffic to drive faster, even if a certain speed limit is marked.
One of the first tasks undertaken by the residents saw the organization's Secretary and Tulsa Preservation Commission representative, Katelyn Parker, measure out and chalk a new take on parking and travel lanes for North Denver Avenue. Looking north on the street and moving from left to right, she chalked a 4-foot-wide dedicated bicycle lane on the west curb that would be protected by a new 8-foot-wide off-curb parking lane. The two travel lanes (one southbound, one northbound) would be 10-feet-wide each (necessitating a slight move of the center line from its present position), and finally a second 8-foot-wide curb parking lane on the east curb of the street. In theory, such a lane arrangement would allow protected bicycle traffic and also greatly encourage adherence to the posted speed limit.
The proposed change to the travel lanes will be reviewed at the April meeting of Brady Heights Historic District, Inc. on Saturday, April 15th, 2017, and potentially recommended to the City of Tulsa as an addendum to the existing request for a traffic calming study which was submitted in May 2016.
While this work was being done, neighborhood residents and children were able to entertain themselves by chalking their own designs on the street without concern of traffic interrupting them. Matthew Holland of local catering company T.W.'s A.F.A.B. was on hand to provide free samples of their Magic Mac 'n' Cheese and Artichoke Dip with Pita to help warm people up on the chilly Saturday morning. Organizational Vice President Dani Widell set up an inflatable bounce house for neighborhood children to use as well, and a sno-cone vendor did surprising business despite the cold temperatures.
In the afternoon, "Chalk the Walk" revelers were joined by neighborhood resident and member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Regina Goodwin, also a cartoonist who contributed artwork to the event after coming back from sessions in Oklahoma City.
Finally, after nearly six hours in the cold, 3D chalk artist Amber Crismond's crosswalk design was seeing its finishing touches applied. The end result embodies another recommendation from Jeff Speck's Walkability Study for downtown Tulsa, where the city is encouraged to call upon the incredible artistic talent of its residents to imagine how crosswalks can become not just utilitarian pieces of pedestrian design but also artistic expression. Once North Denver Avenue was reopened to traffic, onlookers could see an appreciable difference as vehicles slowed down thanks to the unique design as well as the new lane pathing drawn in chalk.
Although the next soaking rain will leave much of the "Chalk the Walk" design work washed away, the photos from the event will remain and there is hope that some of the ideas put to the street in chalk form will eventually see recommendation to the City of Tulsa to create a safer environment in the Brady Heights Historic District in the near future.
Brady Heights Historic District, Inc. would like to thank an anonymous donor for covering the rental costs of having barricades to close down North Denver Avenue during "Chalk the Walk". The organization would also like to thank all attendees at the event and the volunteers who brought the event together on a day where it would've been much more comfortable to sit inside with hot chocolate. Very special thanks to 3D chalk artist Amber Crismond for her passion about the project and willingness to work a very long day bringing her design to fruition on North Denver Avenue.