What if changes were made to some Columbus streets to make them more walkable? Would they work as intended and produce the desired benefits? Would it make businesses and other destinations more accessible?
These are the types of big-picture questions the City of Columbus and Reach Healthy Communities are trying to answer.
Such broad-picture thinking is good for local governments, businesses and other entities from time to time, to assess where things currently stand and what changes might be beneficial.
The city and Reach Healthy Communities have unveiled recommendations from a thought-provoking study by the Port Townsend, Washington-based Walkable and Livable Communities Institute that suggested making over one of the city’s busiest commercial streets — 25th Street on the north side.
That idea includes employing bicycle paths, sidewalks and on-street parking, and most notably two lanes to vehicle traffic where there currently are four.
Other suggestions from the study include:
Creating a riverfront park with a beach along the East Fork White River between the two bridges on State Road 46 entering and leaving Columbus.
Amending zoning ordinances to encourage placement of storefronts along the street and sidewalk in front of the current FairOaks Mall parking lot.
These ideas would represent major changes, and even advocates of them recognize they would be a tough sell.
We have a difficult time believing that 25th Street is an ideal spot for a road diet.
As a major city thoroughfare, the possibility of long traffic backups isn’t palatable and a road diet and major construction on 25th Street would pose tremendous challenges for businesses located on or near the street.
Nonetheless, we are encouraged by efforts to look for ways that city streets can be more user-friendly for walkers.
The study should open eyes as to what the community can be versus what it was and is — in a part of the city less-traveled by pedestrians.