Putting Roads On A Diet To Cure Traffic Congestion

1896 was not a good year for pedestrians and bicyclists. Unfortunately, it was the year that saw the first fatalities result from motor vehicle transportation when one person froze at the sight of a gas-powered vehicle and another was struck by a car while riding a bike.

Since those early days of motor vehicle transportation, concerns about safety and increasing congestion have occupied the minds of civil engineers, planners, municipal officials and citizens alike. Many solutions have been considered and implemented, including stoplights, lane markings, directional signs, crosswalks, pedestrian-control laws, and crossing signals. And while these design elements have had varying degrees of success in alleviating safety issues and traffic flow, congestion and safe passage for non-vehicle travel continues to be an issue for many communities.

A recent strategy that has emerged is the “road diet” that seeks to reconfigure road space to reduce lanes dedicated to motor vehicle use and allow the leftover pavement space to be used for other purposes (i.e., bike lanes). The goal is to reduce car accidents and provide a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment.

Urban designer Jeff Speck and Cupola Media have produced a short video called “Four Road Diets” to offer examples of how this technique might be designed and the benefits that could be realized from implementation.

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