Traffic Calming 101
In an earlier blog, we discussed some possible ways that Vision Zero may affect DC streets. Traffic calming is one of the tools for making streets safer for our most vulnerable users, like pedestrians, bicyclists, children, the elderly, and the mobility-impaired. Our roads are designed by traffic engineers. They tend to use the same standards that they use to design highways, even though neighborhood roads are used by a variety of users. When roads are “overbuilt” (ie: have more lanes than necessary, or wider lanes) they send signals to drivers that it’s okay to drive much faster than the posted speed limit. This is a design problem that can be addressed by the traffic calming measures discussed below. According to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reducing vehicle speeds, also called “traffic calming,” makes a big difference in serious injuries and traffic fatalities. When a person is struck by a car traveling at 15 mph, the risk of death is less than 5%. At 25 mph, the risk of death more than doubles to 12%. And if a person is struck by a car traveling at 45mp, the risk of death is 60%! Slowing down traffic can greatly reduce the likelihood of death or serious injury for vulnerable road users. According to the Institute of Transportation Engineers, traffic calming is the combination of mainly physical measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior and improve conditions for non-motorized street users. Traffic calming is the deliberate slowing down of traffic through neighborhoods by building speed bumps or other obstructions. Traffic calming helps to reduce crashes and increases the safety and convenience of pedestrians and other non-motorized vehicles. Neighborhood Streets Network noted traffic calming measures can also give children more space to play, decrease noise pollution and improve the scenery. This week, I’ll discuss some traffic calming measures suggested by the Project for Public Spaces you have probably seen in and around DC.