Salt Lake City never has been a "pedestrian paradise." The wide streets, long blocks and the penchant of motorists to gun the engine first and ask questions later have made walking around town a bit of a task. That's why the new pedestrian-friendly initiatives being pitched by Frank Gray, the city's director of community and economic development, feel welcome.
Among Gray's ideas is a plan to reward businesses that create and maintain amenities that favor foot traffic parking areas for baby strollers, park benches, even bicycle racks. By thinking first of pedestrians, businesses would catch a break on the other end by not having to fret so much over a set number of parking stalls. There would also be incentives for businesses that provide timed and angled parking stalls, as well. The idea is to slow things down, create a more pleasant atmosphere and where possible even save a few bucks.
The new plan especially would help businesses in the city's trendy, urban sites at 9th and 9th and 15th and 15th.
The proposals have strong support. They would add a little luster to Salt Lake City's emerging image as a cosmopolitan center, not just a sprawling, Western capital. Good things happen when planning and forethought come into play.
Because of its layout, history and culture, the city probably never will become an icon of chic urbanity like Scottsdale, Ariz., or the Gaslight District in San Diego but giving citizens a few more reasons to walk and a few less to drive is bound to help the environment and ambience and take some of the edginess off the constant jockeying for position between the traffic and foot traffic. Mayor Rocky Anderson wanted the city to cater more to pedestrians (hence the little orange flags at crosswalks). Now, under Mayor Ralph Becker and administrators like Gray, more building blocks are being put in place to help Salt Lake City find the "human scale" and develop in a sane and healthy way.