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Posts from the "Traffic Calming" Category

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Removing Center Lines Reduced Speeding on London Streets

Traffic speeds slowed after London removed center lines. Image: Transport for London

Traffic speeds slowed after London resurfaced three streets and didn’t restore center lines, even though resurfacing alone was shown to increase average speeds. Graphic: Transport for London

On some streets, getting drivers to stop speeding might be as easy as eliminating a few stripes. That’s the finding from a new study from Transport for London [PDF].

On Seven Sisters Road, average speeds fell about 7 miles per hour after centerlines were removed. Image: Transport for London

On Seven Sisters Road, average speeds fell after center lines were removed. Photos: Transport for London

TfL recently examined the effect of eliminating center lines on three London streets. The agency found it slowed average driving speeds between 5 and 9 miles per hour, after taking into account the effect of resurfacing. (All three streets were also repaved, which has been shown to increase driving speeds.)

The experiment was performed last year on three 30 mph roads that had just been resurfaced, where center lines were not repainted. A fourth street was resurfaced and had its center lines painted back to serve as a control.

Researchers found that drivers slowed down on all the three streets without center lines. On Seven Sisters Road, for example, after the resurfacing, northbound speeds dropped 2.5 mph and southbound speeds fell 4.1 mph.

Those changes appear to understate the impact of removing the center lines. When TfL observed traffic on the control street, motorist speeds had increased an average of 4.5 mph. Apparently, the smoother road surface encouraged drivers to pick up the speed, making the reductions on the three other streets more impressive.

Researchers suggested that the uncertainty caused by the removal of center lines makes drivers more cautious:

A theory is that centre lines and hatching can provide a psychological sense of confidence to drivers that no vehicles will encroach on ‘their’ side of the road. There can also be a tendency for some drivers to position their vehicles close to a white line regardless of the traffic conditions, believing it is their ‘right’ to be in this position. Centre line removal introduces an element of uncertainty which is reflected in lower speeds.

When it comes to center lines, TfL notes, “most traffic engineers prescribe them by default without questioning the necessity.” London appears to be reevaluating this assumption after a 2009 directive from Mayor Boris Johnson to eliminate as much clutter from the roadways as possible.

Hat tip Jeff Speck.

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Bikes, Cars, and People Co-Exist on Pittsburgh’s Shared Streets

Pittsburgh's Market Square keeps the cobblestone street on the same plane as the sidewalk cafés on the perimeter and the plaza in the middle, indicating to drivers, "you're not on a highway anymore." Photo: Strada, LLC

Pittsburgh’s Market Square keeps the cobblestone street on the same plane as the sidewalk cafés on the perimeter and the plaza in the middle, indicating to drivers, “you’re not on a highway anymore.” Photo: Strada, LLC

Summer is finally here, but livable streets advocates already can’t wait for September to come. The biennial Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place conference is taking place in Pittsburgh, a city that’s shedding its “Rust Belt” image and emerging as a leader in progressive street design with the help of a new mayor who’s committed to biking, walking, and public space.

Over the course of the summer, we’ll be previewing some of the great research and success stories that will be told at the conference. This is our first post in that series. Today, we’re spotlighting one type of innovative design that Pittsburgh is increasingly becoming known for: “shared space.”

As Payton and John have described on Streetsblog this week, shared space is a way of designing streets for cars, bikes, and pedestrians without segregating them. By removing curbs and traffic signals, planners allow everyone to navigate the street using their own common sense and by communicating verbally or non-verbally with others.

Three recent projects in Pittsburgh have utilized the shared space concept. “It’s a change in thinking about how that space is used that elevates the status of pedestrians and cyclists — more pedestrians than anyone — over the car,” said Michael Stern, an architect at Strada, the firm that designed the three new shared spaces. “So that’s a big change.”

In Market Square, where drug deals used to be conducted in plain view, a major redesign has attracted nearly a billion dollars in new development. In addition to offices surrounding the square, there are almost 500 new residential units and 32 restaurants within a block and a half. Many of the 20 dining establishments that encircle the plaza have patio seating on brick sidewalks that blend into the cobblestone street, with no curb separating them. On the other side of the street, the plaza’s terrazzo floor is also at the same grade.

That cobblestone street is known as Forbes Avenue, and it used to cut straight through the square. Now it goes around it. “It has become a really great pedestrian space with slow moving traffic, and limited traffic because everyone knows you’re not going through there quickly,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Buses that used to go right through were re-routed to neighboring streets too, keeping transit access within a half block but keeping the large vehicles out of the square.

Cyclists complain about the cobblestone, but Waldrup says that doesn’t bother him. “Not every space has to be built optimally for every mode,” he said. The net effect is that “pedestrians rule,” according to Stern. “People will walk wherever they want to walk. If a car comes in there, it’s very clearly understood as a pedestrian space as opposed to a car space.”

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Crime Drops on Louisville Streets Converted From One-Way to Two-Way

In Louisville, streets that were converted from one-way to multi-directional saw dramatic reductions in crime. Photo: Planetizen

In Louisville, streets that were converted from one-way to two-way traffic saw significant reductions in crime, while citywide crime rates rose. Photo: Planetizen

Converting fast-moving one-way streets to calmer two-way corridors may make them safer in more ways than one, according to a study by John Gilderbloom, a professor at the University of Louisville.

Gilderbloom and a team of graduate students analyzed data from two Louisville streets that were recently converted from one-way to two-way operation. They compared the two streets — Brook and First streets — to control streets, both one-way and two-way, that had not been converted.

“The results were stunning,” Gilderbloom wrote last week in Planetizen.

On the two streets that were converted, crime dropped 23 percent, compared to a citywide increase of 5 percent during the same time period. Auto theft fell by one third on Brook and First, while it rose 36 percent on nearby one-ways, Gilderbloom reports. Meanwhile, robberies on the two converted streets dropped 42 percent.

Traffic safety improved too. The streets actually saw an increase in total traffic as driver speeds slowed down. Auto collisions dropped 36 percent on Brook and 60 percent on First.

Gilderbloom noted other changes on Planetizen:

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“The Better Block” Celebrates Four Years of Re-imagining Streets

Streetfilms has wanted to profile Jason Roberts and the amazing work of The Better Block for a long time. So it felt like destiny when, a few weeks ago, we were able to sync up and chronicle the fourth anniversary of The Better Block in Oak Cliff, Texas.  This temporary pedestrian plaza is right next to the original site where Roberts and the team at The Better Block first showed how you can completely transform a street using temporary materials and your imagination.

In this Streetfilm you’ll see some of the behind-the-scenes set-up and preparation. You’ll see how, in short order, they transform a dangerous intersection into a safe street with a barebones budget — including an incredibly inventive application of decals to create temporary crosswalks.

The Better Block approach to re-imagining sidewalk amenities seems to be catching on. In San Francisco, the Castro neighborhood will be getting rainbow crosswalks. Then, in the guerrilla striping tradition, an anonymous someone altered the bars on a Hawaii crosswalk overnight to read “Aloha.”

Check this map for a look at all the work Roberts has done with Better Block, and its impact around the world has inspired dozens of similar projects around the world.

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Families of NYC Traffic Violence Victims Band Together for Safer Streets

On Sunday, New Yorkers who’ve lost loved ones to traffic violence gathered on the steps of City Hall in Lower Manhattan to launch Families for Safe Streets, a new initiative advocating for street designs and traffic enforcement that will save lives. In this moving Streetfilm, members of Families for Safe Streets talk about their goals and why they’re speaking out.

The speakers included Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, whose son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn; Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter Allison was killed in a Queens crosswalk; Judith Kottick, whose daughter Ella Kottick Bandes was killed while crossing the street in Brooklyn; Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband Dr. Carl Henry Nacht was killed while riding his bicycle on the west side of Manhattan; Greg Thompson, whose sister Renee was killed by a turning truck driver on the Upper East Side; Dana Lerner, whose son Cooper Stock was killed by a taxi driver who failed to yield to Cooper and his father while they were in a crosswalk; and Dave Sheppard, whose fiancée Sonya Powell was killed crossing the street by an unlicensed, hit-and-run driver in the Bronx.

Their message on Sunday was about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths in New York. Families for Safe Streets supports the multi-pronged action plan de Blasio unveiled last week, while calling on City Hall to make firmer commitments with concrete benchmarks for reducing traffic violence.

The formation of a survivors group dedicated to reducing dangerous driving of all kinds is also a new development in New York, and perhaps a national precedent. While organizations like MADD have specifically countered drunk driving, the United States has not had an equivalent to the UK’s Road Peace, a traffic violence survivors group formed in 1992 that has become a national voice for overall street safety. Perhaps not coincidentally, since 1990, traffic deaths in Great Britain have dropped by two-thirds, while traffic deaths in the U.S. have fallen by only a quarter.

By turning their grief into activism, Families for Safe Streets is doing something new and powerful. And they are extending an outstretched hand to other victims’ families in New York. “There are thousands of other survivors,” Amy Cohen said at Sunday’s event. “We invite them to join us.”

Stephen Miller contributed reporting to this post.

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Can Snow Inspire Better Streets? It Already Has.

Before

In Philadelphia, a snowy neckdown at Baltimore and 48th Street in 2011 inspired permanent upgrades to the pedestrian environment at the intersection. Photo courtesy of Prema Bupta

Sneckdowns are having a big moment. In case you’ve missed the viral blog posts and major press coverage, sneckowns (a contraction of “snowy neckdowns” popularized by Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr. and Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek) are leftover snow piles on city streets that show space that could easily be reclaimed for pedestrians.

As a visual tool, sneckdowns can be powerful. At least one city has already used snow formations as the inspiration for better streets.

After a winter storm in Philadelphia in 2011, snow piles became the basis for a major pedestrian upgrade at Baltimore and 48th Street in the University City District, according to Prema Gupta, the district’s director of planning.

Gupta said her organization, inspired by New York City’s example, was already looking around for potential spaces for pedestrian plazas when a staffer produced the above photo. ”That very quickly made the case that there’s right-sizing to do here,” she said. At the time, no one had heard the word “sneckdown.”

“For us it was just a really compelling way of showing there was way too much street and not nearly enough place for people,” she said.

Based on the snow patterns, the city produced a plan to expand pedestrian space at the intersection:

The plans

The final design was implemented this summer:

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NYC DOT Shares Its Five Principles for Designing Safer Streets

Photos: NYC DOT

At Madison Avenue and 135th Street, a mix of additional pedestrian space and crossing time, turn restrictions, clearer markings, and tighter corners led to an 18 percent redcution in injuries. Photos: NYC DOT

Earlier this month, NYC DOT put out a major new report, Making Safer Streets [PDF], that collects before-and-after data from dozens of street redesigns and distills five key principles to reduce traffic injuries. The excitement of election week overshadowed the release, but this is an important document that livable streets supporters will want to bookmark. It’s an accessible guide to how DOT approaches the task of re-engineering streets for greater safety.

Under Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, DOT has elevated safety as a departmental priority, and it often follows up a redesign by reporting on the change in traffic injuries after six months or a year. After six years of implementing these projects, the department now has an especially compelling data set – multiple years of before-and-after safety records from dozens of redesigns. Reviewing these projects and what has worked best, the report authors distilled DOT’s approach to safety improvements into a design philosophy.

Deputy Commissioner for Traffic and Planning Bruce Schaller, the lead author, says Making Safer Streets is “the most comprehensive data-driven report on safety we’ve put together.” What makes it especially notable for New Yorkers and residents of other major cities, he said, is its focus on urban streets. “When we look at safety and the elements of design that make safe streets, [other studies] are still not a clear guide to what we should expect to work in NYC.”

After overhauling many streets and intersections over the past six years, the DOT team hopes the report will serve as a reference not only for planners and engineers, but for any city resident who cares about street safety and wants to evaluate how streets are functioning and what would make them better. It’s written in accessible language and comes in at under 30 pages, with a raft of graphics and photos doing much of the communication.

The guiding idea in the report is that greater simplicity, order, and predictability will make streets safer:

Read more…

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Petitioning U.S. DOT to Recognize That City Streets Should Prioritize Walking

The FHWA applies the same design standards to city streets as to suburban arterial roads.

The Federal Highway Administration classifies roads as either “rural” or “urbanized.” But the “urbanized” label is deceptive, because it applies suburban street design standards to any street that isn’t rural. So if you live in, say, downtown St. Louis, the FHWA applies the same standards to your streets as to the streets in Orlando’s most distant suburbs. This contributes to a horrendous mismatch: Many city streets where walking should take precedence are in fact designed for moving massive amounts of traffic.

Now there’s a petition drive underway to change that. John Massengale, Victor Dover, and Richard Hall — a team of planners and architects that are involved with the Congress for New Urbanism — are circulating asking U.S. DOT to develop more city-friendly standards.

The trio recommends establishing separate standards for urban and suburban streets, introducing new priorities that place pedestrians first on city streets. From their letter to U.S. DOT:

The new standards for Urban Areas would be fundamentally different than the current Urbanized standards. Two-way streets, narrow traffic lanes, bicycle sharrows, and a prohibition on slip lanes and turn lanes would be the norm. In large cities, faster urban routes might be limited to broad boulevards and parkways. Small-town residential streets and Main Streets would be similarly transformed, according to their context.

The team calls their proposal a “simple but powerful idea could transform America’s streets and make our neighborhoods, cities and towns more walkable.” As of this afternoon, the petition needs only about 60 signatures to reach the goal of 500 supporters.

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Seatbelts and Tickets Alone Won’t Cure America’s Traffic Death Epidemic

Motor vehicle crashes caused 28 percent of all deaths among people 24 and under in the United States in 2006. In 2009, nearly 34,000 people died on America’s roads, and that was considered a big improvement over previous years. More and more, it seems, Americans are wondering why our country is so far behind on creating safe transportation systems.

Better management = fewer traffic fatalities? Try better road design. Image: ##http://carinsurancetipsblog.com/##Car Insurance Tips##

Better management and enforcement aren't the only ways to reduce traffic deaths. Image: Car Insurance Tips

According to a new report, Achieving Traffic Safety Goals in the United States: Lessons from Other Nations, by the nongovernmental National Research Council:

Nearly every high-income country is reducing annual traffic fatalities and fatality rates faster than is the United States, and several countries where fatality rates per kilometer of travel were substantially higher than in the United States 15 years ago are now below the U.S. rate.

The report authors acknowledge that high-achieving countries attribute their own progress, in part, to road design, but that doesn’t make it into their own set of recommendations, which focus on management reforms, enforcement, and the building of political and public support for those changes.

Barbara McCann, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, says that’s not enough. With current road design, she said, “the priority is put on speed and volume of travel, and that results in more deaths than if there were a higher priority put on safety in the actual road design.”

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How Many Trips Are ‘Captured’ By More Diverse Urban Land Use?

Current methods of predicting the traffic-calming effects of mixed-use development are "woefully lacking" and risk underestimating the transportation benefits of more compact, diverse land use, according to a new report from the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

thumb.jpgAn example of mixed-use development in San Francisco. (Photo: Arch. Record)
The TRB report is the first to examine mixed-use development on a nationwide level, looking initially at six metro areas and poised to add data from seven more in the coming months.

It focuses on "internal capture," the traffic analyst's term to describe how many auto trips are effectively removed -- that is, "captured" -- from the street network.

"Except for a handful of master-planned projects in Florida, actual numbers on internal capture rates [for mixed-use development] are few and far between," the TRB researchers wrote. "Traffic engineers are thus largely left to their own devices to quantify the trip reductions that might accrue from this often varied and complex development type. Oftentimes, no adjustment is made."

So how many trips are actually removed from congested streets by more diverse land use? Three out of every 10 on average, the TRB researchers found.

Every captured trip serves to decrease the strain on existing roads and reduce the carbon footprint of the community as a whole. Increasing the effectiveness of mixed-use projects isn't as simple as offering a broad mix of housing, however. A number of variables help to determine how much automobile dependence can be mitigated, according to the TRB:

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