Among the many things we learned in running Bounty of the Barrens Farmers Market last year was that folks love to get out of their cars, walk about, shop, chat, and generally enjoy the company of their friends and neighbors in a quiet, car-free environment. Should anyone be surprised at this? Most of the places where we yearn to go on vacation offer the same qualities. So how might we move our community toward an expansion of this thing we learned at the market? How about starting right in the nucleus of Glasgow on the Square?
Go to George J’s or Subway on the Square and have lunch while watching the traffic on the Square. Anyone can see why the Square is not the pleasant pedestrian plaza that we want. Over the years we have mistakenly emphasized vehicular traffic around our Square and that has made it an arterial roadway instead of a pedestrian plaza. It is noisy. It is unpleasant for pedestrians. The sidewalks are narrow and the roadways are wide. Pedestrians have trouble finding parking places so they can get out of the cars and walk because the parking layout is inefficient and large numbers of parking spaces have been claimed by the various government agencies around the Square. Vague traffic organization and signage makes the problem worse. This is no place for a person in a vehicle, much less a pedestrian that wants the same sort of experience they have at Bounty of the Barrens Market!
Making changes to our city center will certainly bring about doubt and resistance, but surely we can allow ourselves to dream of a different sort of nucleus for our community without causing immediate resistance. What if we were to throw away everything about the way our Square is organized and start with a clean sheet of paper? What if the sidewalks were wider and the driving lanes smaller? Can you imagine the whole Square as a cross-walk and striped to designate that? What if the parking plan for the Square were totally redesigned to provide more, and safer, parking spaces? What if the people who own the Square got a voice in how many parking places were allocated to our government agencies?
If the Square is to be the nucleus of a new transportation plan for our community that includes facilities for walking, jogging, and cycling, then the Square should be an area where the pedestrian, and the local businesses there, are King and Queen, and the vehicular traffic is tamed and respectful of the King and Queen. We think that East-West traffic along Main Street should be two-way in order to allow that traffic to move on without circling the Square. This, by itself, would drastically reduce the number of vehicles orbiting the Square. Maybe there should be speed bumps to calm the traffic, and new traffic control graphics and devices to organize it. Maybe there should be local ordinances that prohibit any vehicle with more than two axles to use the pedestrian zone created around the Square (sitting at George J’s at lunch one day we counted over thirty tandem-axle, heavily loaded dump trucks circumnavigating the Square). To create a pedestrian-friendly plaza in the center of our community, many drivers should find the Square to be too slow for vehicles, prompting them to find alternate routes, and allowing peace and quiet and that elusive pedestrian friendly environment to flourish. Once that happens, it seems that existing businesses on the Square, as well as new ones, will find themselves flourishing as well.
Sustainable Glasgow wants to engage the community in dreaming about a new Public Square. We want to be a catalyst in the process of promoting a cycling/jogging/walking infrastructure plan for Glasgow. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy asks Glinda (the good witch), “but – how do I start for the Emerald City?” Glinda replies, “It’s always best to start at the beginning. . .” We think it always makes sense to follow the advice of a good witch. Let’s begin at the beginning, on Glasgow’s Square and make it the center of our master plan for a pedestrian friendly city.
If you want to be a part of this conversation, please join us for our next Sustainable Glasgow public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on April 20. We will be meeting on the Square at 108 East Public Square. We hope to see you there!