Jon Larsen, PE - CNU Utah Board Chair

Have you ever tried to pull on a door that needs a push to open? It happens to me on a regular basis. The problem is that a handle implies that you should pull the door to open it. Visual cues are more powerful than text. This is why people still pull on a handle when the sign says “push.” All that’s needed is a flat plate instead of a handle. Without even thinking about it, people will push the door open. If you have to put a sign on something that should be obvious and intuitive, it’s a sign of design failure.  

Human Centered Design for Streets 1

In 1988, Don Norman published a book “The Design of Everyday Things,” which popularized the concept of intuitive, human-centered design. When designing a can opener or a smartphone, human-centered design is a matter of convenience. When dealing with an environment where 2-ton vehicles and human beings are interacting, it’s a matter of life and death.

Human-centered design for streets means building streets that encourage human-centered (slow) speeds. Once speeds increase above 20 mph, the odds of death dramatically increase in the case of a collision. I recently wrote a piece for Strong Towns which highlights a tragic case of misaligned expectations between design and reality and offers some ideas to make our streets safer.

If we want safe, walkable streets, it won’t be by accident. It will be by design.

About the author: Jon Larsen, PE works as a traffic engineer, with an emphasis on travel demand forecasting and regional transportation planning. He currently serves as the CNU-Utah Board Chair.

Jon Larsen, PE - CNU Utah Board Chair

In April of 2017 a junior high student was hit and killed in Syracuse, Utah while crossing the street at a crosswalk in front of his junior high school. This story hits home to me for two reasons. I have a son this same age who I absolutely adore, and I can’t imagine how bad it would hurt to lose him, especially in such a senseless way. Second, I believe that my profession (traffic engineering) has failed this young man, his family, his school, his community, and hundreds like them throughout this state and country. There’s no other way to put it. Failure. Epic Failure. Someday as a profession and as a society we will stop giving lip service to the concept of “Zero Fatalities” and make real change. I’m hoping it’s sooner than later.

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A. Paul Glauser, AICP - CNU Utah Board Member

Downtown Provo has seen a variety of new residential and mixed-use development in recent years in both the downtown and the nearby area north of the UTA Frontrunner station/transit center. New urbanist principles are visible in these developments to varying degrees. They provide good lessons in what works in city center housing and where things could have been better with a little more attention to key variables – lessons which can benefit cities throughout Utah. 

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