Most people associate Valencia, Spain with oranges, paella or the fireworks-packed Las Fallas celebrations. Valencia also boasts innovative ways to mark subway stairs and crosswalks, access its bike sharing program, and park cars along its neighborhood commercial districts.
Frequent Metro riders in the DC area struggle with the right way to explain the local custom of standing on the right and walking on the left on Metro escalators. Metro Valencia educates each and every rider with a firm yet humorous reminder at the base of escalators.
The text in Valencian and (Castilian) Spanish asks whether you’re in a hurry or not. Green versus red and the cartoon characters reinforce where the speedsters and where the slowpokes need to be.
In the occasional blocks where concrete dominates the landscape, there are small designated areas where dogs can relieve themselves. These are not dog parks, just places for dogs to do their business. The sign shows the purpose of the wooden pole, in case the waste around it doesn’t make the use apparent.
Unfortunately, Valencians are known for not picking up dog waste, so it collects in these dog areas, in tree boxes, and even scattered along sidewalks. Dog owners in DC, even without these designated areas, pick up waste much more frequently.
Visitors to our National Mall often seek shade, refreshments and restrooms. All of them can be hard to find on a hot summer day, especially the latter. Valencia has a long east-west park created in the riverbed of where the Turia River used to flow. The long strip of parkland, multiuse paths, cafes, playgrounds and tourist attractions is dotted with some public restrooms.
Cartoon signs direct visitors to these restrooms. These graphically descriptive restroom signs appear in sets of three: girls, boys and persons with disabilities.
Citations for double parking in Valencia don’t come cheaply: 200 Euros with a 50 percent discount for prompt payment. Nevertheless, you’ll see double parking along business strips outside the central business district. Police generally will not ticket for cars double parked as long as they don’t block a crosswalk, bus stop or no parking zone.
There is one non-negotiable condition for double parking: the car must be left in neutral with the parking brake off. That space in front of the red car (below) is there intentionally. If someone needs to pull out of a blocked space, they will push the double parked cars until there is a gap so that the blocked car can pull out.
Would this be a suitable solution for church or event parking on the flat areas of DC? Would you be willing to leave your car so that others could roll it forwards or backwards?
Double parking does not make Valencia a free parking utopia. Residents use collective trash dumpsters and recycling bins instead of individual cans. The trade-off is simple: parking spaces.
On nearly every block, anywhere from one to four parking spaces is consumed by the shared waste containers. On the plus side, there is never a need to lug heavy trash cans to the curb and remove them according to a set schedule. In DC, it takes a permit to even put a storage container in a public parking space.
Street markets are a common sight in Valencia even during the week. They tend to be staggered from one neighborhood to the next so that there is one within a reasonable walk or bus ride. Clear signs advise residents that parking is prohibited on either side of the street along the market routes. Some of the larger markets may wind along five or six city blocks.
DC has a growing collection of farmer’s markets. Is there also room for non-food markets selling clothing, toys and household goods?
For drivers who want pedestrians to live up to their end of the safety equation, Valencia has an answer.
A sign reminds pedestrians of their safety obligation on the near side of the intersection. When you press the button to request a walk sign, a red reminder lights up to wait for the green (walk) signal on the far side of the intersection. This creates a second reminder that it is not yet time to cross the street.
The DC region has the more traditional walk and don’t walk signals at intersections. Would a second reminder make a difference for pedestrians?
For drivers, there is a second reminder, too. On the far side of intersections and traffic circles, where cars cross a crosswalk after turning, there is a pair of yellow flashing lights at the crosswalk. It is rare to see a driver do anything other than fully stop at these flashing lights when pedestrians are crossing or preparing to cross.
The law across the DC region is on the pedestrian’s side. Nevertheless, some drivers try to squeeze between the pedestrians in a crosswalk on the far side of an intersection.
Crosswalks in the DC region vary from thick, high-visibility markings with the direction of traffic to the park of thin lines perpendicular to the direction of traffic. For pedestrians and drivers alike, the appearance of a crosswalk ranges from very clearly visible at a distance to a set of lines that could be confused with a stop line.
Every crosswalk in Valencia is painted with the thick, high visibility lines. Everyone knows what to expect whether crossing a busy wide road or a narrow residential street.
Nobody likes gridlock. Everybody wonders why it happens. In DC, some intersections have “Don’t Block the Box” signage. Valencia puts a very visible yellow crosshatch pattern across entire intersections with the potential for gridlock problems.
Like the WMATA Metro serving the DC region, Metro Valencia has a clean, simple system map and a more detailed street map. The detailed map shows the exact location of all nearby valenbisi bike share locations, further integrating bus, rail and bike.
Could WMATA add the Capital Bikeshare stations to its maps? Or, are the locations still evolving too rapidly to keep up with the changes?
A collection of narrow, one-way residential streets have been marked with sharrows. A second set of reminders labels the street as “ciclocalle” and reminds all users of the speed limit. Would this extra signage help all road users in the DC area? Or, are the sharrows road markings sufficient to indicate the sharing intent?
Valencia boasts over 200 stations for its valenbisi bike sharing program. Subscribers don’t need to carry an extra card or device to charge out a bike as necessary for Capital Bikeshare. Instead, same MOBILIS card used to pay for bus rides is also linked to the valenbisi account. Could WMATA and Capital Bikeshare integrate their two systems in a similar manner?
Which of these ideas might work across the greater Washington region? Would some be more suitabile either exclusively inside or outside the DC central business district? Which ones shed new light on old problems? Which ones could drive residents, commuters or tourists nuts?