First developed in Germany as “vekehrsberuhigung”, traffic calming refers to a system of road safety measures based on the idea that streets are not just a conduit for vehicles to move at the highest possible speed. The term describes a set of design guidelines and devices that are designed to prevent speeding and other dangerous driving activities in order to make the streets safer for all users, including pedestrians.
Traffic calming aims to slow down and, in some cases, divert traffic without completely banning it, which puts cars on a somewhat more equal footing with other modes of transport and reduces the likelihood of accidents, serious injury and death. Traffic reduction projects also offer an opportunity for landscaping, seating and other amenities that can break up monotonous neighborhoods, reduce air pollution and increase opportunities for social interaction.
Because they are inexpensive and easy to install, some traffic reduction strategies have become popular interventions in the tactical urbanism movement, which promotes short-term, often citizen-driven “pop-up” projects that energize public space and can demonstrate benefits. local stakeholders and officials. For example, some groups, such as the Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, have begun painting their own crosswalks at dangerous intersections and crossings to warn drivers of the presence of pedestrians, bypassing official channels. While such projects may cause conflict between activist groups and city officials, they can also encourage discussion of dangerous conditions and action at the government level.
Strategies and Devices for Calming Traffic
Measures to reduce traffic fall into several categories: horizontal deviations that change the otherwise straight carriageway; vertical deflections that change the height of the carriageway; reducing the width of the street; and routing restrictions. These are often low-cost, quick measures that reduce vehicle speeds, improve pedestrian safety, and/or reduce through traffic. This includes:
- Pedestrian crossing islands, raised dividers and curbs to reduce the distance pedestrians have to cross and discourage speeding.
- Raised crosswalks slow drivers down and make crosswalks more visible.
- Road bumps, speed tables, rumbles and other physical means of slowing down cars. These units can be designed to accommodate ambulances and bicycles.
- Lateral shifts that flatten a straight road by changing lanes forcing drivers to slow down. A chicane is a series of multiple lane offsets created by curb extensions or dividers that force drivers into a curved path, slowing them down. This app is suitable for low speed streets and short blocks or mid-block lots.
- Diagonal parking for increased driver awareness and more efficient use of space. On-street parking can be designed to slow down traffic while still providing a larger parking space.
- Sidewalks have been widened and lanes shortened to make room for non-vehicle use.
- Roundabouts and roundabouts to improve traffic flow and reduce conflict points.
- Posts, detours, or other barriers that restrict traffic on local streets and direct traffic (such as a concrete island that only allows left turns) to make roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Rebuilt intersections, also called modified intersections, are intentionally rebuilt with skewed approaches, causing cars to slow down as they pass. This measure is effective at T-junctions and other smaller streets.
Traffic reduction measures often work best in combination with each other. The low cost and ease of implementation of traffic reduction measures also allow cities to make immediate improvements by testing low-risk approaches and adjusting programs accordingly. Improving the safety and comfort of streets for pedestrians and cyclists can also promote public transport, as people are more likely to use transport if their route to the nearest stop is safe and easy to navigate.
One of the most prominent examples of integrated traffic reduction strategies is the Dutch woonerf. The woonerf concept positions the street as a space for social interaction and multiple uses beyond vehicle capacity. First developed in the 1960s in Delft, where residents replaced their streets with winding lanes to divert traffic from their neighborhoods, woonerf is known to blur the line between pedestrian and vehicle space by removing curbs and has inspired successful street renovations in the Netherlands and other countries. European countries.
Problems and obstacles
Traffic calming initiatives face a range of issues and challenges, including road safety, impact on traffic flow and volume, uniformity of standards, liability issues, access to utilities, emergency vehicles and transport access, and impact on cycling and availability. Thus, while traffic calming projects can be relatively inexpensive, they require coordination with other departments and stakeholders to ensure that they integrate into existing infrastructure as effectively as possible. Small temporary pilot projects or makeshift installations can help win support from local authorities and residents and highlight the scalability benefits of the project.