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January 13, 2021  

The Problem with Creating “Slow Streets” Too Fast

January 13, 2021

In the first few months of the pandemic, many towns and cities moved quickly to create “slow streets,” streets that restricted vehicle access in order to make room for socially distanced walking, biking, play, etc. While the thinking behind those adaptations may have been justified, the speed with which they were implemented often came at the expense of meaningful public engagement and buy-in from residents.

As Laura Bliss writes in a recent article for Bloomberg CityLab, slow streets have drawn “controversy, community resistance and comparisons with racist urban planning practices of earlier decades.” Bliss quotes Corinne Kisner, the executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, who said, “I think there’s a tension between planners wanting to act fast, because their work is so critical to reduce fatalities and greenhouse gas emissions — the reasons for this work are so compelling and historic. But the urgency to move fast is in conflict with the speed of trust, and the pace that actually allows for input from everyone who’s affected by these decisions.”

This article is the topic of this week's episode of Upzoned -- our first episode of 2021 and our 100th episode overall -- with host Abby Kinney, an urban planner from Kansas City, and regular co-host Chuck Marohn, the founder and president of Strong Towns. Abby and Chuck discuss why improving how streets and public spaces are utilized isn’t worth much if you get the process wrong. (“Robert Moses tactics can’t achieve Jane Jacobs goals.”) They also contrast the one-size-fits-all solutions that create resentment with the benefits of iiterative, truly collaborative approaches.

Then in the Downzone, Chuck talks about finishing The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and recommends a blockbuster new religion podcast by a hometown host. And Abby talks about why climbing is the best sport for understanding incrementalism. Oh, and also about skydiving, which prompted Chuck to recommend this video.

Additional Show Notes