Downtown Des Moines has experienced remarkable growth, with more people choosing to live downtown and business activity on the upswing. In spite of this rapid growth, street life remained relatively subdued, primarily owing to the design of streets throughout the area, which has historically prioritized vehicular access and remained less accommodating to pedestrians. The Des Moines community expressed a desire to see the city become safer and friendlier to people walking and biking. In 2016, Nelson\Nygaard conducted a comprehensive study to explore ways to create a more vibrant, walkable downtown area.
The project team identified a range of cost-efficient improvements to expand transportation options and enhance the safety, walkability, and vibrancy of downtown streets. Nelson\Nygaard provided block-by-block cross sections of the proposals to guide implementation, leading to the city’s implementation of its first protected bicycle lane in August 2017. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with employers, residents, and retailers recognizing the unique opportunity to achieve the economic, health, safety, and equity benefits of a street network that helps make downtown Des Moines a great place to live, work, and visit.