Keep calm and drive on!
Some streets are unwelcoming. The worst for me was an RV park on the Colorado River. To get to our site, we drove over 11 extra-high speed bumps (I counted) and one scary spike strip. The park wanted our patronage but obviously took the cheap n’ unimaginative route to control speeders.
Most of our western Canadian cities are far from traffic-calmed, yet the idea has been around for a long time. So what works best to slow traffic?
The Project for Public Spaces (PPS), has the right idea: it treats the street as more than a conduit for vehicles to pass through as quickly as possible. Instead, the focus is on building stronger communities.
Traffic calming is founded on the idea that streets should generate a sense of place. The street’s purpose is for people to walk, meet, shop and even work alongside cars.
Slowing traffic helps build places that are friendly to people travelling on foot or bike. Some traffic calming projects can be applied inexpensively and flexibly, by painting lines, colours and patterns, or by using flower planters and other removable barriers.
The PPS group suggests that sidewalk extensions or similar structures should be installed with temporary materials – to test and then fine-tune the techniques. When funds are available, the right combination of devices can be transformed into permanent improvements and developed over a broader area.
Sure, budget is always an issue, but take that out of the equation. We already have the traffic calming know-how, so why the delay?
Not everyone is a supporter. The Canada Safety Council, for one. According to their website,
simplistic solutions can create new problems. While they agree that speed humps, curbs protruding into lanes, street barriers and other traffic calming measures reduce vehicle speeds, “there is no evidence that they reduce collisions with pedestrians, and they have detrimental ripple effects. They impede and damage emergency vehicles, divert traffic to other streets and increase harmful emissions.” The site concludes that most traffic calming measures waste limited resources without protecting pedestrians.
James D. Schwartz, Transportation Pragmatist and Editor of The Urban Country questions whether the person who contributed this anti-calming content ever rides a bicycle.
“When I ride on streets with traffic calming speed humps,” Schwartz writes, “I’m much safer as a result – and so are the people inside cars who have to slow down to below 40km/h in order to not feel the hump when they drive over it.”
One interesting note: Schwartz did a little digging and discovered that the Council is funded by reps of the car industry, oil and gas industry, the transport/freight industry and the auto insurance industry. Makes a girl wonder….
Regardless of which side you take, traffic calming can get overzealous, borderline ridiculous. Watch this clip to see how planners can have good intentions but bad measurements!
And next time you have to slow down or yield to someone like me on a bicycle, stay calm. You’ll get there. Eventually.
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