Earlier this year, Strong Towns shared this video from the Iowa DOT that I think provides an excellent visual for why and how changing a 4 lane road to 3 lanes including a middle turning lane can improve safety and road conditions with a minimal impact on traffic flow.
This especially hits home for me because there is a perfect example of a road that needs this kind of road diet right at the end of the street I live on. We have road studies to show the dangers and high collision rates on this stretch of pavement with 4 lanes crammed onto what barely has room for 3. Yet our state DOT and local county council continues to drag their feet and slap red tape on what should be an obvious solution – because a superficial understanding of road design says that more lanes means less traffic.
This is the kind of discussion that one would expect at a county council or neighborhood meeting, and is probably why attendance at said meetings is so low, but the fact of the matter is both drivers and pedestrians are getting injured and dying, businesses along these roads are suffering (the cars that aren’t speeding through are avoiding the area altogether), anything larger than a compact car is hanging over the lane (just imagine the school buses coming through!), and it’s all a matter of where you put the paint on the road for about half a mile.
It’s also the kind of discussion that cannot be contained to county council or neighborhood meetings. With more awareness and education, road diets and traffic calming can become the expected norm as common sense ways of helping our neighborhoods and communities thrive. I think that too often, biking and walking infrastructure is seen as a luxury and/or an inconvenience to drivers, when in reality, multi modal street design benefits everyone in immediate and indirect ways.
If you’d like to follow me down the rabbit hole, here are some resources that have totally changed the way I used to think about personal transportation: