By Henry Morgenstein
Car width: 6 feet to 6.6 feet
Parking bay: 8.5 to 10 feet wide
Highway car lanes: 12-14 feet wide
Cities: 10 feet wide
Two-way bike lane: 8 feet wide
I placed these figures at the head of my essay so you can easily refer back to them. The numbers are very confusing — and finally, they are mostly meaningless until you find out something basic that most of you simply do not know. You are ignorant — lacking knowledge, information or awareness — because no one informed you.
How wide is the street in front of your house? Do you even have a ballpark figure? Shouldn’t all residents along a street — my street, for instance, 10th Street in Traverse City — know how wide the street is in front of their house?
How can we be responsible citizens of a city when so little information is given to us? This is a “free” country and you can go down to City Hall and ask for.
That’s not my point.
I didn’t know, I was not told, the width of the street in front of my house — or the width of any street in my town.
Risking life and limb, I went out and measured a whole bunch of streets. I’ll just give you one small part of what I found: Crosstown streets near me (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th) are 36 feet wide. That’s really wide folks. Thirty-six-feet wide.
The frame creates the picture. The frame? Thirty-six feet of street width. What can you do within that frame? For pieces to put inside this frame, see the head of this column. Here is how the pieces are distributed in front of my house, which for one block (Cass to Lake streets) has been narrowed to 30 feet across.
Parking is allowed on both sides of the street, but on my side of the street, a line is painted 63 inches (70 if you include the painted stripe) from the curb — that’s less than 6 feet of width in which to cram a 6-foot-wide car. On the other side of the street, the demarcated/painted lane is 72 inches (77 including the stripe) wide. Day after day I see how hard car drivers try to stay inside the line. The most ridiculous example I saw just the other day: a semi truck, two wheels up on the curb — but he stayed inside the line.
My street allows two-way traffic, but cars move slowly because (you do the math) there is only 18 feet between the “parking bays.” In essence, the City of Traverse, through stripes of paint, forced cars hard up against the curb and slowed cars down by giving them less space.
What should your city do with the street in front of your house? An 8-foot-wide protected bike lane? Six-foot-wide parking bays? So much to play with — and no one is asking us what we think should be done.
About the author: Henry Morgenstein taught at NMC for 30 years and wrote bi-weekly columns for the Traverse City Record-Eagle (1985-1991). He splits his time between Southampton, England and Traverse City.