Friday, January 15, 2016

Healthier Roads in the New Year

New Year’s Resolutions and Your Roadways

Health is the cornerstone of wholesome living. Perhaps that’s why the number one New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to lose weight. The goal of a well formulated diet is to achieve optimal health. For cities around the world, road diets take the same approach. They aim to keep roads trim with a wholesome approach- one that keeps all road users in mind including motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

What is a Road Diet?

A road diet is a healthy overhaul for today’s overweight roads. Road diets reduce the number of travel lanes or the width of roads and often introduce new or expanded spaces for pedestrians and bicyclists to use. Some techniques used in road diets include adding or widening walkways, narrowing roadways with curbing, adding cycle lanes on one or both sides of the street, using landscaping or green areas to limit driving space, or adding a center turn lane. Putting roads on a diet often encourages improved commerce as access to businesses becomes easier and safer for all road users.

Why the need for diets?

With the wide use of motor vehicles for transportation, many roadways across the country were designed with only the needs of motorists in mind. In recent decades, as bicycling and walking have become more popular and healthier modes of local travel, people have been discovering that roads are often not friendly to these users. In addition, on roads where speeding and accidents  are concerns, implementing road diets lowers driver speeds and reduces crash rates. In fact, researchers have found that road diets reduce crash frequency by 19-43%.

Beyond Diets

Road diets, while beneficial on some roadways, are not the solution for all streets. Some streets can’t be narrowed, while for others a road diet is simply not enough to solve the problem. Just as simply dieting is not always enough for a better lifestyle, roadways too can benefit from a more holistic approach. Complete streets are another initiative that can help cities to create streets that are healthier and more livable. Complete streets often integrate traffic calming measures such as speed humps, staggered parking, lower speed limits, radar signs, pedestrian crosswalks, bike lanes, and the like.

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