As part of the Dallas “Complete Streets” Initiative, Dallas’s Team Better Block was challenged with demonstrating how to re-engineer a three block stretch of Knox Street from the Katy Trail to McKinney avenue for four days to be safe for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Concurrently, we worked with the Knox Street Public Improvement District to establish a series of pop-up parkletts and a plaza to provide businesses in the area a template to best capitalize on the improved street infrastructure. The area of Knox Street is a classic historic main street in Old North Dallas with early 1900’s era buildings built to the sidewalks and four lane auto dominated streets. Early renderings (see A to C) of the street focused on maintaining the auto-centric nature of the area while including shared bicycle markings and a single bike lane placed in the blind spot of vehicles parked on the South side of the street.
Katy Trail, bordering the Knox Avenue Business District
After multiple discussions with the city of Dallas, area businesses, and bicycle groups, Team Better Block noted that the area’s strongest amenity was the multi-use Katy Trail bordering the district to the West and that the potential to connect this heavily used public space to the commercial corridor would increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic to local businesses. A fourth concept for the street was created using a European style two-way cycle track.
This street cross section guaranteed greater connectivity, higher use, and increased perception of safety. Vacant parcels on the commercial block were also highlighted during Team Better Block’s public/private space survey. We then engaged local property owners to demonstrate pedestrian oriented areas.
Working with city transportation officials and Dallas Light and Barricade, Inc., Team Better Block developed a full street plan that converted the four lane auto-dominated street into a two lane complete street. Parking was changed from dangerous 90 degree head-in to 45 degree angle, a center turn lane made it easier to turn and reduced lane widths from 12 feet to 10 feet and improved traffic calming. A dedicated two-way cycle track further reduced the width of the street, making it easier for pedestrians to cross.
On September 27th, crews set to work installing the temporary infrastructure and signage throughout the district.
Traffic analysis was provided by Space Between Design Studio before and during the demonstration to analyze traffic flow and speeds. Below is a break down of those readings (click to enlarge images) or read the entire analysis here:
Before Better Block demonstration
During Better Block demonstration
In red parentheses is the reduction in speed on average per segment. Predictably, traffic slowed all along Knox where the road diet was installed.
Why is speed important in a walkable district? Speed has a direct influence on accidents with pedestrians. Reducing the speed from near 30mph to 20 mph drastically improves the safety of the street. The slower speed also is optimal for timing those pesky signals.
To capitalize on the increased foot traffic and bicycle activity in the area and to spotlight the potential to capture increased economic activity in the district, Team Better Block converted a vacant gas station to a market and outdoor beer garden, with programmed activities for area residents and visitors.
Other improvements included incorporation of parklets, additional public seating, a bike share program, and enhanced wayfinding signage.
Team Better Block would like to thank the city of Dallas, the Knox Street Public Improvement District, Sarofim Realty Advisors, La Grange, Sewell Cadillac, Stash Design, focus EGD, Bicycles Plus,Andrews Distributing, the Burke Company, Fast Signs, Prekindle, University of Texas at Arlington, RE Gallery and Bike Friendly Knox-Henderson/Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, for helping sponsor the demonstration and contributing to the success of the Better Block project.
What happens next? The planning is complete! The Dallas Complete Street Project is drawing to a close and it is time to implement. We are seeing bicycle lanes pop-up all over our city. Most of this is being done with existing street funds and old bond projects. The bigger projects like cycle tracks, trails and complete streets will take more money, so if you live in Dallas, make sure to vote in the November election to make some of these improvements that have been demonstrated go permanent! Vote yes on Prop 1, see a sample ballot here.