City Adds Flex Lanes to Downtown Business District, Birmingham, Alabama, 2021
5 minutes Date Launched: Mar 10, 2021
Credit: REV Birmingham
REV Birmingham, an economic development non-profit, in partnership with the City of Birmingham’s Department of Transportation, added flex lanes in a commercial district on 20th Street North between 1st Avenue North and 3rd Avenue North. A flex lane, according to REV Birmingham, “is a section of roadway that can adapt to different uses based on the needs of the community”. Beforehand, lanes on this two block stretch were wide, giving drivers the perception that there were two lanes on both sides of the street and making the area less friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists; often valet and deliveries would occur on the right side of the lane closer to the sidewalks, obstructing traffic or blocking easy passage for bicyclists and buses.
Credit: Google Maps
The flex lanes, located on the right side of the original lanes in both directions, are decorated in bright colors and include 5-foot-wide green-striped bike lanes and a designated thoroughfare for buses. The remaining area outside of the flex lane, designated for automotive traffic, becomes thinner, creating a traffic calming effect. The sidewalks now have planters and tables, making them more appealing to pedestrians and surrounding businesses.
Traffic calming, street reconfiguration, and tactical urbanism play an important role in promoting safe and efficient multimodal transportation options. Understanding how the design of streets, sidewalks, and communities can either support or hinder shared mobility is an important consideration.