Pedestrian plazas cause fights?

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“The type of people we all don’t want in Northgate are going to be loitering in that plaza. I don’t understand how you guys don’t perceive the huge liability with fights out of the bars. Well you just created a boxing ring”

[Source: Left of College Station] As spoken by Aaron Curs, owner of Paddock Lane and Tipsy Turtle (bars in Northgate, College Station). Without commenting much on the “type of people” implication, I am surprised by Mr. Curs’ other implication that when given a pedestrian plaza, people tend to break out into fights and love to box. Somehow given all my years of experience in designing and studying public spaces, I have not come across this concern much. Admittedly, proximity of bars may give rise to these concerns but then it isn’t the availability of public spaces that is instigating such fights but rather the presence of bars. Public spaces can be designed to deter anti-social behavior but the mere presence of a public space doesn’t necessarily lead to a free for all.

The Northgate businesses may have a valid point when they resist changes by saying that the city is “playing puppeteer in something you shouldn’t be messing with” but then the government has always defined public spaces when it comes to safety. If the city government doesn’t play puppeteer, you wouldn’t need traffic lights and drivers would be expected to be on guard while driving through the area. Having lived in the area and currently working, I can attest to the horrible traffic bottleneck that Wellborn and University is. Add to that, the randomly crossing pedestrians in a haphazard manner across a wide road, it is a wonder that more deaths don’t occur on that stretch of road. Further, the loading trucks to the businesses (I’m looking at you, Dominos truck) somehow manage to plan their deliveries around rush hour further jamming up the roads. Given the large number of students who live across University Blvd and cross across to the university at all hours of the day, the idea of wider sidewalks, a 9′ median, and a pedestrian mall near College Main and Houston St seem like a darn good idea. There are plenty of parking lots that are underutilized further down the road toward Wellborn Rd so businesses could just advocate for a parking garage from their TIF dollars.

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