MBA: Traffic Calming
What’s the most effective way to make city streets safer? As Chicago Alderman Mary Ann Smith told Streetfilms, “Signs don’t do the job, even having police officers on the corner does not do the job.” To prevent traffic injuries and deaths, you need to change how the street functions and make it feel slower for drivers. You need traffic calming.
Traffic calming takes many forms and can describe any measure taken to reduce traffic speeds, improve safety, and make using the street a better overall experience. The most effective traffic calming measures are those that influence drivers to “behave in a civilized manner,” as Smith put it.
Changes like curb extensions, neck-downs, and bike lanes are all traffic calmers that save lives by sending the signal for drivers to slow down. In this Streetfilm we highlight some exemplary traffic calming projects from cities across the country.
Streetfilms would like to thank The Fund for the Environment & Urban Life for making this series possible.
Dan Burden: [00:13] Traffic calming is any change we make to a street so that motorists drive in a more civil fashion.
Mike Lydon: [00:19] What that does is it signals to drivers if they can just slow down, be aware that they are not dominant in a certain environment. And traffic calming is infrastructure to make sure that happens.
Mary Ann Smith: [00:29] Is the infrastructure going to serve the pedestrian as well as the automobile, or is our pedestrian infrastructure going to continue to be shaved down so that more vehicles can move as fast as they want?
Dan Burden: [00:43] Adding bike lanes, anytime we take some of the physical width out of the street, we’re really doing traffic calming.
Ian Sacs: [00:48] In New York City they have recently released studies to show that streets that have bike lanes on them reduce killed or significant injury crashes between vehicles and pedestrians by up to 40%.
Dan Burden: [00:59] Traffic calming actually had its origins in the United States in Berkley. Donald Appleyard, the regional researcher that did most of his work in Europe, brought traffic calming to the United States. We have many, many circles, a number of curb extensions, chicanes through streets, and a whole other goggle of different treatments that have been tried and worked very well in Berkley.
Mary Ann Smith: [01:25] We were able to create this one of a kind initiative on Marine Drive to radically narrow a street. Traffic would race down this street with huge population density on one side and all the Park District amenities on the other side of the street. So this obviously was a problem. So the street was narrowed and bump outs were created. It’s reduced heat holding infrastructure. It’s made a profound difference in the ability to get to and from the park. And it’s beautiful. It has become a wonderful, wonderful model for the rest of the city.
Ian Sacs: [02:00] In New Jersey there’s a State law that says you can’t park within 25 feet of a crosswalk. These two orange poles that are installed on the street, the one in front of me and the one behind me, [unintelligible 02:08] daylighting poles, are to physically prevent all but the most adamant drivers from parking in this location. The importance of that law and the importance of having these poles here is it improves visibility between drivers coming down the roadway and pedestrians that are entering the crosswalk. I’m standing just on the edge of a bicycle lane that’s five foot wide on a street that was previously 16 feet wide for travel lane. That 16 foot wide travel lane is actually wider than the travel lanes on the New Jersey turnpike, which have design speeds of 75 to 80 miles an hour. We made the argument that by putting in a five foot wide bike lane, you squeeze the travel lane of vehicles down to 11 feet, that’s a much more appropriate lane width for vehicles in an urban environment, and so it has an inherent traffic calming effect.
Mike Lydon: [02:56] The great thing about the bike box is that, well, it provides a lot of visibility for cyclists at intersection. It’s actually a pedestrian improvement. So what it does is it sets up a nice hierarchy at every intersection that it’s applied. So you’ve got this nice crosswalk for pedestrians, and then you’ve got the bike box for cyclists, and then you’ve got the motor vehicles who have to then stop at advent stop line back here. So it really sets up a great precedent for intersections, not just here in living streets, but for other streets as well. I’m sitting at the intersection of Bergen and Smith, which is actually the intersection of a community street and a living street. The DOT built a very large what they call a neckdown, sometimes called a bulb out or a curb extension here. Bulb outs are really beneficial because what they do is they allow pedestrians to be much more visible at intersections cos they extend into the normal sort of street right-of-way. It also just provides more space and makes it more comfortable for pedestrians to be in the public realm to be walking along our streets.
Mary Ann Smith:
[03:53] Signs don’t do the job. That even having police officers
on the corner do not do the job. Altering the infrastructure to,
as we say, create an even playing field, to force traffic to behave
in a more civilised manner is the way that it has to go.