Oklahoma City streets not made for walking, design consultant concludes

BY STEVE LACKMEYER Modified: March 20, 2009 at 4:53 am •  Published: March 20, 2009
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photo - A woman in a wheelchair and children hurry to cross Hudson Avenue between the Oklahoma County Courthouse and City Hall on Thursday. The six-lane street with 12-foot-wide lanes — highway standard — gets the worst grade from consultant Jeff Speck on walkability.  Photo By Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
A woman in a wheelchair and children hurry to cross Hudson Avenue between the Oklahoma County Courthouse and City Hall on Thursday. The six-lane street with 12-foot-wide lanes — highway standard — gets the worst grade from consultant Jeff Speck on walkability. Photo By Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
Jeff Speck, who first introduced himself to Oklahoma City by announcing "your codes are bad,” is back with a new message: the sidewalks and streets aren’t great, either.

Speck, who was hired to look at how to improve pedestrian access downtown, is coming out with a report that suggests Oklahoma City must make a dramatic change if it wants to compete for tomorrow’s work force.

"The jaw dropper for me is the city’s traffic count map,” Speck said. "If you walk the city, and you look at the streets, you would think because of the size of the streets that traffic is two to three times what is actually experienced. There is a shocking disconnect between the size and speediness of all of your downtown streets with a few rare exceptions.”

‘It’s ridiculous’
Streets getting the most critical eye from Speck include Hudson Avenue between Reno Avenue and Robert S. Kerr Avenue. Those trying to cross the six-lane street Thursday included Henry Jerome, 34, who was on his way to the Oklahoma County Courthouse.

"This is why I don’t come downtown,” Jerome said. "I thought parking would be bad, but it really wasn’t. But this street — it’s ridiculous. And all these one-way streets are scary. Why does it have to be this way?”

According to Speck, it doesn’t. Speck showed the downtown street configurations to traffic engineers outside the state and their first response was to guess the street grid was set up for a downtown density and traffic volume comparable to Chicago or Manhattan.

"They said this is a street network that will support three to four times the density it is handling,” Speck said. "Then you look at the traffic counts, and only a few carrying 10,000 a day. And 10,000 cars a day is easily handled by a two-lane road.


At a glance
Public presentation

Urban Land Institute Oklahoma will host a public presentation by Jeff Speck 6 p.m. March 31 at the Skirvin Hilton hotel, 1 Park Ave. Speck is the former design director with the National Endowment for the Arts and is a principle of Speck & Associates LLC. In Washington, D.C. Speck is author of "Suburban Nation” and a leader in the "New Urbanism” movement. Admission to the presentation is free. For more information, contact Brenda Kelly ULI Oklahoma coordinator at 607-6801 or email: oklahoma@uli.org.

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