Ask the Advocate
By Kristen Steele
We are trying to get a road diet on a major route going through Naples, FL: US 41/ Tamiami Trail. Do you know of any places that have successfully taken a six-lane road to a four-lane road with 40,000 vehicles or with bike lanes that can handle that kind of volume? We have some local government decision-makers behind this, as well as plenty opposed, so we need to help the consultants sell this. Can you help?
Thanks in advance,
Michelle Avola, Naples Pathways Coalition
Road diets are an excellent prescription for obese roadways. They often involve removing and narrowing car traffic lanes and adding bike lanes, sidewalks and green buffers.
I’m not sure if the 40,000-vehicle projection is based on current volume or increased volume, but you might help your local decision-makers consider this: Traffic is more like air than water. Rather than a finite volume that will spill over its container if not given enough room (like onto neighborhood streets), traffic expands and contracts with the space available. Removing and shrinking lanes will mean less capacity and, if designed correctly, it may even change some of those vehicle trips into biking, walking and transit trips. This will translate into reduced air pollution and improved public health, which translates into real savings for the local community. It is also interesting to note that according to the Worldwatch Institute, it takes 12 lanes of traffic to handle 40,000 cars in one hour, but only one lane to accommodate that many cyclists.
Extensive research evaluating road diets has found that they reduce the number and severity of collisions and can handle the same traffic volume. One example is US 18 in Clear Lake, IA. This road was converted from four lanes of traffic to two traffic lanes and a turn lane with painted shoulders. After the road diet, the number of crashes on this street decreased by 65 percent, aggressive speeding was reduced by 52 percent and overall speeding decreased by 32 percent.
Research shows that US cities that invest in cycling infrastructure see yearly increases in bicycling of 10 percent and more, and in some cases as high as 30 to 100 percent. The initial investment will pay for itself. For example, Portland spent $57 million on its 300 miles (483 kilometers) of bikeways and plans to invest another $100 million more in the coming years. By 2040, these investments will have yielded $1.2 billion in net benefits from health care and fuel savings alone.
For more tips to help sell your road diet to skeptics, check out streetsblog.org/2007/05/03/the-benefits-of-a-road-diet
Kristen Steele works for the Alliance for Biking & Walking and lives in Northern California with her husband and two children.
Alliance for Biking & Walking