6.10.16

GET THE VISUAL CUES RIGHT.

Grand Forks, North Dakota, like much of the rest of the country, is not a safe place for kids to walk to school.  It's not about school district consolidation or the abolition of fitness privilege.  It's the infrastructure, stupid.
We have a few streets in town that continually need to have flashing speed limit signs and police stationed on them to deter speeders. We also have streets that don't need those measures. The difference isn't in the number of cars or the number of speed limit signs. The difference is in the design.

Show me an area where police need to continually set up to catch speeding drivers, and I'll show you a street design that encourages speeding and is unsafe for pedestrians.

For decades, cities have adopted the same safety design principles for neighborhood streets that they've used for highways. On highways, wide shoulders and buffer zones are added to wide driving lanes to help drivers take corrective action if they veer off of the road at high speed. There are no pedestrians crossing highways, so pedestrian safety is not taken into account, and rightly so.

But on neighborhood streets, wide buffer zones and wide traffic lanes encourage drivers to drive fast, lowering awareness and decreasing reaction time. This is a problem when there are pedestrians present.
Yeah, there's speeding where there are stroads. So much for intelligent design.
We can build streets that are safe for pedestrians, or we can build them so that cars can move through at a rapid pace.

A street can't do both. It simply doesn't work. In fact, trying to achieve both goals ends up accomplishing neither and puts people in danger.

If we're serious about making our streets and crosswalks safe for pedestrians, then we must accept that the only way to do so is to get cars to slow down. This also would require accepting the trade-off, which is the few seconds that would be added to our commute each day.
Fortunately, they are beginning to catch on.  "When lanes are built too wide, many bad things happen. In a sentence: pedestrians are forced to walk further across streets on which cars are moving too fast and bikes don't fit."  Narrow the lanes in residential areas.  Spend less money building infrastructure, there's less infrastructure to crumble.
Our lives are currently being put at risk daily by fifty state DOTs and hundreds of county road commissions who mistakenly believe that high-speed street standards make our cities and towns safer. In my most considered opinion, these agencies have blood on their hands, and more than a little. There are many standards that they need to change, but the easiest and most important is probably the 12-foot lane. Armed with the facts, we can force this change. But only if we do it together.

It's time to push this discussion to its logical conclusion. Until conflicting evidence can be mustered, the burden of proof now rests with the DOTs. Until they can document otherwise, every urban 12-foot lane that is not narrowed to 10 feet represents a form of criminal negligence; every injury and death, perhaps avoidable, not avoided—by choice.
We'll take up the matter of the 53 foot trailer plague another day.

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