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Designing Safer Surface Roads

Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman has come up with the adventurous design idea of "shared space," in which traffic lights, signs, crosswalks, lane markers and even curbs aren't part of the streetscape! Pedestrians, motorists and cyclists negotiate their way by "reacting" to one another. Hmmm...imagine a cell phone/texting driver in
this context!

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Cost of Wisconsin
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Sidewalk Sleever Todd Valley Farms
Teak Warehouse Ferris Industries
Valmont Boulderscape

In 1975 traffic fatalities in the Netherlands were 20 percent higher than
the U.S.

The U.S. has reduced traffic fatalities significantly, from 44,000 in 1975 to 37,000 in 2008, a 15.9 decrease. The U.S. reduction is commendable, but the Dutch, have reduced traffic fatalities from 3,200 a year to 800, a 75
percent reduction!

How have the Dutch done it? Both the U.S. and Dutch success is in part the result of safer cars and roads, but the Dutch over the last three decades have implemented "sustainable safety." Instead of designing wider and straighter urban surface roads (not including freeways), a model in use since after WWII that only encourages greater speeds, the Dutch have been designing roads that make drivers inclined to operate their vehicles at speeds more appropriate for traveling through large populated areas.

Design techniques to transition drivers from higher speed roads on the outskirts of a city to slower speeds as they reach the urban area include:

– trees and striping along the edge of the road
– traffic islands and well-marked pedestrian crosswalks
– mechanisms that trigger a red light if vehicles exceed the street speed limit
– sidewalks and bike lanes added to the streets upon entering a populated area, and the road ending at a pedestrian district
– valuing cyclists and pedestrians in road planning
– managing access to arterial roads.

Some U.S. state DOTs are looking to incorporate these designs for their roadways. The Smart Transportation Guidebook (March 2008), developed through a partnership between PennDOT and the New Jersey Department of Transportation, integrates transportation planning and design that fosters development of sustainable and livable communities.

Other U.S. cities--San Francisco, Denver, Savannah, Portland, Ore. and Charlotte--have begun to incorporate some of the sustainable safety design ideas for their surface streets.

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September 18, 2019, 5:54 pm PDT

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