Monday, January 8

What is a safe street?

Some people travel by car, some by bus, some by bike, and others walk. All of them have different ideas about what makes a street safe and comfortable.
Most people who are not traveling in large vehicles find that streets which are less wide (such as neighborhood streets) are the safest.

The contradiction is that everyone wants to get to their destination as quickly as possible and with the fewest interruptions. What happens is that urban planners (following the Robert Moses model, which in turn followed the Nazi autobahn) have long been creating straight roadways designed for higher speed and fewer stops. This allows people to go very fast (assuming there are few other people using the road). However by going fast, there is less time to react to emergencies. So a small problem, can result in a fatal crash very quickly.

On the other hand roads built through residential areas are smaller and designed for slower speeds. These roads are exactly what most parents want in order to allow their children to play safely. Unfortunately as traffic backs up on arterials, people feel that it's acceptable to head down these smaller roads to get around traffic. This scares the residents and parents who now are afraid to let the kids play outside.

With roads primarily designed for car travel, there are few places where people feel safe. The main roadway is a throughway for vehicles, the side is a parking area for the same vehicles, and even sidewalks are sometimes used for vehicles.
So what is the solution to this conundrum?
Well the main issue here is space. The more of it there is, the faster people will go and the more will be consumed. (2) So to keep people safe, the throughway for vehicles must be constricted. Some solutions which have been built are diverters, choke points, and islands. This results in a smaller area for cars and thus a reduction in speed. However since these are expensive to build, they are used in only a few places. The other issue is that "any restriction on the boundless use of the auto is political suicide."(1) So what is the best way to build a safer neighborhood?

The answer is neighborhood activism. Getting out in the street, writing letters to both the politicians and the media en masse is the only way to create sympathy for the children, handicapped, and elderly users who are the most compromised.

The other side of the coin is simply to use transportation which is safer for other road users, such as busses, bicycles, and walking. By combining modes, trips can be made in nearly the same time as the standard model.
So be a part of the solution and learn more about creating a positive lifestyle.

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