Using Snow to Plan Traffic Calming

I was inspired by this post, which showed how the snow on the roads was mother nature’s way of creating natural traffic calming curbs. I am a big advocate for showing proof of the changes that infrastructure can bring by temporarily demonstrating the changes with pylons, barriers etc.  Snow can show the desire lines of drivers, and essentially how much of the road space is actually being used by automobiles.  This is very important because as a result of the last century’s planning philosophy, our cities have been designed to accommodate almost solely the automobile and moving them as quickly through our cities regardless of the needs people and other mobility options.  Street calming makes it safer by slowing down traffic for those already walking/cycling or using transit, and encourages more to switch from driving.  

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I was very struck by this photo from Jan Gehl’s book “Cities for People”, we all do this and we can all emphasize with this.  Cars bring fear to our cities and streets, so much that we cannot even cross a narrow street without fearing for our lives.

I was ready to hit the streets any day now and put this snow planning experiment to the test, luckily I woke up today and it was snowing in Vancouver!  The results are impressive, if you don’t believe me take a look for yourself.  I highly encourage anyone the next time a traffic engineer is talking about making traffic flow better, making the roadway bigger, have photos like this ready to show them proof that cars are not using the space.  Recently I read the New York City Making Safer Streets, which shows that more road space does translate to better traffic flow.  Rather higher quality traffic lanes that provide space for all modes actually can make driving easier and improve traffic flows.  The main thing that these photos show is that drivers are using less space and yet there is not chaos, people driving can still get where they need to go.

This photo actually shows some of the new improvements on Comox St. installed over the summer, it looks like they could have provided more of an pedestrian island.

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Again here is another example at Cardero and Comox St. showing how a curb bulge out could have been installed to make this intersection safer.

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This snow pocket on Denman St. is interesting especially given how over built the automobile infrastructure is in this entire area and how narrow the sidewalks are.

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The snow in the middle here also shows there is too much space and that the sidewalk could be extended at Denman St. will no ill effects.

 

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The road right in front of my house, on the right it certainly looks like there is room for more sidewalk, cycle lane, or swale, all of why which would serve a better use than unused asphalt that the city still pays to maintain and replace.

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This one is fascinating, drivers are not using the triangle at this traffic circle.  This space could be transformed into a nice pedestrian island.

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There were many examples were a curb extension could be installed to minimize the crossing distance for pedestrians.  In many of these cases curb extensions can also prevent through traffic in the parking lane.  We can make the city a more attractive place to live, work and play if we can accommodate the basic humans needs and right to walk.

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