Bikeable and Walkable Avondale, AZ
The City of Avondale is reinventing itself as a more walkable and bike-able community by considering the needs of all users when implementing streetscape retrofits. In late 2016, the city completed a one-mile reconstruction of a main thoroughfare which connected the historic downtown area to Interstate 10. Central Avenue was originally a five-lane road with small unshaded sidewalks abutting the street. However, the stretch is a bustling corridor for businesses and the students who ride their bikes to one of the seven schools located in the area. Previously, pedestrians frequenting the multitude of small businesses on Central Avenue were also subjected to the dominant vehicular circulation over all other modes. Early on, before the design process began, the city recognized the fact that there was an opportunity to transform Central Avenue into a livable, attractive, complete street, inviting all modes of transportation.
Adopting Complete Streets
A complete street defined in the City’s Transportation Plan is a project that seeks to incorporate design considerations that foster users of all mobility options, such as bicycles and pedestrians, to use the space safely and comfortably. Complete streets offer a number of benefits to the residents of the city in which they are installed. The primary benefit is an increase is safety. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, the majority of complete streets installations reduced the amount of collisions and pedestrian injuries. The factors of safety increasing had been shown to lead to the encouragement of more multimodal travel as well which is something the city is aspiring to do. During planning for all street improvements the city looks for opportunities create a sense of place within the public realm.
The streetscape improvements that were installed on Central Avenue included: a reduction of lanes from five to three, chicane buffered bike lanes, and low impact development curb cuts that serve to direct runoff to the newly installed street trees which provide much needed shade for pedestrians and bicycles.
- Road Diet: The original street five lane road was reduced to three lanes. The two outermost lanes were repurposed to provide room for new landscaping and a dedicated bike lane. On street parking and bus pullouts were also added in order to reduce the scale of the street and increase the safety of pedestrians. Streets on which lanes have been removed have been shown to reduce vehicular speed which in turn can lead to a stronger local economy due to the fact that motorists have more time to notice local businesses rather than speeding by.
- Stormwater Management: 6 foot landscaped, bio swales were constructed as part of the lane reduction. Bio swales are landscape elements which are utilized to slow, spread, and sink the first flush of rainwater off the street in order to irrigate landscaping. The swales were landscaped with drought tolerant native trees and grasses and also act as a physical barrier between cars and bicyclists.
- Dedicated Bike Lanes: With the remaining right of way left over from the lane reduction, a dedicated bike lane was installed beside the sidewalk. The dedicated bike lane provides a comfortable, protected path for riders to navigate the one-mile stretch.
Bicycle trips have picked up noticeably since the installation was completed. Before the street construction began the city deployed bicycle counters in order to understand how many trips were being undertaken. The city is currently conducting after construction bicycle counts in order to understand how the improvement may have effected bicycle activity. The project received great reviews from the businesses located along the corridor who have provided positive feedback about the increase in bicycle traffic and the safety associated with lower speeds.
Avondale continues to analyze their street widths and shaded thoroughfares through the Capital Improvement Program and ensure roadways are designed to consider bicycles and pedestrians. More recently the city has approved the addition of bike lanes in the large Garden Lakes subdivision.
These innovations have resulted in partnerships between planners and engineers working together to implement a vision for shaded canopies laid out in the city’s Street Tree Master Plan. The city plans to continue to implement complete streets retrofits where feasible along specific roadways in an effort to implement the Healthy Community vision outlined in the General Plan 2030.