Urban planners know adding streets won’t make traffic any better, indeed adding capacity for more cars does the opposite: it makes traffic worse. The problem is that the average person (and politicians) don’t know this little quirk of urban planning. As a result we still build sub-urban areas to cater to old notions of traffic design instead of letting urban planners implement smarter, better solutions.
So what’s a solution to bad traffic? Road diets.
Today, we now know that bigger roads and extra traffic lanes do nothing to solve congestion. In fact, it tends to induce even more traffic. So we didn’t fix the congestion issues, and on top of that, we built wide roads that are relatively unsafe.
Transportation planners in the 21st century recognized that many of the roads that were overbuilt could be redesigned to calm speeding and add space for newer multimodal transportation options. And thus, the road diet was born.
Mass surveillance is everywhere in modern cities. Cameras are on every corner monitoring all sorts of activities, which led one person to think about using them to see if traffic cameras can be used to replace traffic cops. The short answers is yes. Personally, I don’t see mass surveillance as a good thing but what I find really interesting about this isn’t the policing aspect but the data collection of how streets are used. In the example setup it was found that cars broke the laws quite a lot and endangered the lives of cyclists. Maybe we can use the technology to better understand how streets get used and what we can do to ensure traffic flows.
During a 10 day period in December 2017,
- bike lane was blocked 40% of the time (57% weekdays 7am to 7pm)
- bus stop was blocked 57% of the time (55% weekdays 7am to 7pm)
Keep in mind this is just one average block. This means if you are riding in a bike lane you are swerving blind in and out of the bike lane every other block. And if you are on a bus your commute just got longer.
Depending on where you live you may think streets are for people or for cars. The correct answer is that streets are for moving people and not built for the need of inanimate objects. In an interesting series of videos the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume examines the different urban design decisions between suburban and urban neighbourhoods. The urban areas that promote cycling and walking are understandably the most vibrant, interesting, and productive (economically and culturally). The impact non-car uses can have on streets is evident and something that every city can benefit from.
Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s most vibrant streets — Queen, College, Bloor — are generally narrow car-slowing thoroughfares lined with unspectacular buildings between two and six storeys tall — hardly the stuff of vehicular convenience. The major interruptions in these mostly intact streetscapes are largely the result of clumsy modern interventions beginning in the 1950s and ’60s. Decades later in what’s now Vertical City, we still have difficulty making buildings work at street level. Architects are slowly learning, but have yet to master the skills of contextualism. They prefer the silence of the vacuum and ignore the public realm whenever possible.
Read and see more.
Anybody who lives in a city knows that walkability of neighbourhoods is a key reason they live where they do. The attraction to mobility options, safe places, cultural and economic diversity is what keeps cities growing. Walkable spaces makes all of that happen and more!
What smoking was to the 20th century car driving is to the 21st, and people are starting to realize we need to kick the car addiction. Car culture kills people through increased obesity, awful urban planning, and pollution (not to mention collisions). Over at Fast Co. Exist they put together a list of 50 reasons why everyone should want more walkable streets.
“The benefits of walkability are all interconnected,” says James Francisco, an urban designer and planner at Arup, the global engineering firm that created the report. “Maybe you want your local business to be enhanced by more foot traffic. But by having that benefit, other benefits are integrated. Not only do you get the economic vitality, but you get the social benefits—so people are out and having conversations and connecting—and then you get the health benefits.” A single intervention can also lead to environmental and political benefits.
Here’s numbers 25 & 26 from the list:
25. It shrinks the cost of traffic congestion
The more people walk and the fewer people are stuck in traffic on roads, the more that benefits the economy. In the Bay Area, for example, businesses lose $2 billion a year because employees are stuck in gridlock.
26. It saves money on construction and maintenance
While building and maintaining roads is expensive—the U.S. needs an estimated $3.6 trillion by 2020 to repair existing infrastructure—sidewalks are more affordable. Investing in sidewalks also brings health and air quality benefits worth twice as much as the cost of construction.
Read all 50.
Bicycles are an amazingly fast way to get around cities and countries, as a cyclist I often roll past cars idling in bumper to bumper traffic. The cars (and their single occupants) aren’t getting anywhere anytime soon yet drivers as a group demand more and more infrastructure when really they should learn to share.
In the Globe and Mail, it’s argued that drivers shouldn’t be so selfish and support things like public transit, bike lanes, and other initiatives that actually help people get around. The car as an individual transportation solution needs to go away.
The truth is there’s no immediate solution to traffic congestion. We can wait for trillion-dollar infrastructure projects to get completed. We can wait for a new subway line or bike lane. We can wait for autonomous cars to make better use of the available road space. But until then, we’re going to have to learn to better share the space we’ve got.
Roads are for moving cars as quickly as possible. Pedestrians are a danger and cyclists are barely tolerated. But what if, as drivers, we changed the way we thought about roads? If they’re public space – a quarter of Toronto’s total area – then shouldn’t they be for moving as many people as fast as possible? Sometimes that will mean prioritizing automobiles. Sometimes that will mean giving up a lane to cyclists. Sometimes that will mean giving up a lane to buses.