Home > Engineering Design, Guest Writer, Representing > One-Way to Decrease Residential Livability

One-Way to Decrease Residential Livability

Guest Contributor: Peter Spaulding, part 3 of 3.

Burden of Traffic Not Shared Equally

Traverse City is a great place to live, but there are many neighborhoods that could easily be made safer and more livable. While concerted effort, creativity, and time will be required to improve all our neighborhoods, simple traffic calming and two-way conversions are straight forward ways to get results in neighborhoods.

As discussed in part I and part II, the design criteria for one-way streets would seem to preclude their use in residential settings. Increased speeds, volumes, and noise, along with decreased pedestrian safety, walkability, and livability are predictable results and would seem less than ideal. Residents on one-way streets also accept disproportionate traffic burdens because one-ways identify themselves as corridors and fastest way to get across town. Overall volumes can be expected to decrease for two-way street conversions in residential settings. Two-way streets share the burdens and benefits of mobility more equally, have inherently lower capacity, and can include design features to further lower speeds and encourage multiple transportation modes.

A consequence of a one-way design on 7th Street is motorists creating more than one lane of traffic. Here two cars create a two-lane street. 7th Street is 30' wide with parking on one side. Leaving, in effect, a 24' wide lane. (photo: GLHowe)

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Safety Issues

Traffic on two-way streets is symmetrical, so looking first left, then right (as taught to children) will work every time. Collisions are more likely when a child only completes the first half of the sequence and traffic is coming from only the “wrong” direction; consistency can play an important role in fostering growing awareness of traffic and safety .

Two-way streets lower speeds, reduce stopping distances, and give motorists and pedestrians of all ages more time to avoid collisions.

Cyclists forced to go against traffic or ride the sidewalk is just one example of a one-way broken street.

Our Acceptance of Speed, Despite the Risks

Speed in neighborhoods is especially important because it is the number one contributor to the severity of a crash related injury. Studies have shown even the difference between 18 mph and 35 mph can mean the difference between crash avoidance or minor injury, and severe injury or death. While 10 mph over the limit is accepted and often expected by other motorists and police, this auto-centric view fails to accept or realize impacts on neighborhoods. The driving mind seems so easily detached from the residential mind; people commonly speed in their own neighborhoods as much as they do others.

One-way Elimination is Part of Traffic Calming

Residents should insist upon traffic calming measures for themselves, but support a more complete street network for everyone. Two-way streets improve the completeness and cohesion of the network and can reduce driver frustration and speeding by providing more direct access to destinations. The addition of traffic circles or planted chicanes can further improve driver behavior on streets where speeds are a problem.

We need to accept responsibility behind the wheel in our own neighborhoods and others, and pressure our governments and road authorities to create facilities that promote livability. Through proper facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, and road designs that help to elicit better behavior from every motorist, all neighborhoods can be made more livable.

Eliminating one-way orientations is a step in the right direction, and should be a priority for both neighborhood residents and the city.

  1. September 15, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Agreed, well put.

  2. Matthew Ross
    September 15, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I live on Seventh Street and I agree with changing it back to a two lane street, but I would like some traffic calming measures to avoid too much cut through.

  3. September 15, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    My understanding is that the conversion has been brought up before, as recently as this year, and each time the central neighborhood association puts the kibosh on the idea. That may be an over-simplification of the discussion, but that is as far as the discussion has gone.

    Also recently, Ian Lockwood recommended that the city seriously consider the conversion of 7th and 8th back to two-ways. We’ve yet to see leadership from city staff to make that recommendation. I think the city manager needs to hear that there is wide support for the conversions, as well as the city planner and DDA executive director, who is also the community development director. What’s also needed is for supporters to attend the neighborhood meetings and join the discussion.

  4. Matthew Ross
    September 15, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Looks like I need to attend our next meeting, I think they just had one and I forgot all about it. I will however send some e-mails

  5. September 15, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    It’s last minute, but I was just alerted that State Street will be discussed at Friday morning’s DDA meeting. September 17: Packet (PDF) Both Peter and my emails are included in the packet. They meet at 8AM in the Governmental Center 2nd floor commission chambers.

    They serve free coffee…

  6. Joe
    September 22, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Wait, I’m sorry, but how are bicyclists “Forced” to go against traffic or use the sidewalk?

    By “Sharing the Road” and claiming the same “Rights and Responsibilities” as motor vehicles, shouldn’t you also claim the same rules, and also obey the one-way-ness?

  7. September 22, 2010 at 8:03 am

    “Forced” may not be the exact word, but then again, for the vast majority of bike users it may be accurate. Traveling on 7th St., when going east across Division St. there are limited choices “perceived safe”. A bike user either turns on to Division and goes north (my choice) or south (a very vulnerable choice). Most common, they avoid the “highway through the city” that is Division St. and choose to go against the flow of traffic on 7th Street for one block before turning north or south on Maple St. Is it forced? Doing the “right” thing certainly isn’t encouraged, let alone designed into the infrastructure, so I think it is still an accurate commentary on the situation.

    No one forces anyone into a car either, but still many feel like they “need a car”.

  8. Joe
    September 22, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Traveling Eastward on seventh street across division on a Bicycle ought to carry the same decision as driving a car in said same direction; there are do-not-enter signs, and the street is one way. Don’t break the rules.🙂

    (When I see cyclists traveling eastward on seventh, that’s pretty much akin to motorcycling without a helmet and in shorts and flip-flops. it’s dumb, and I wouldn’t do it. Sure, there’s no law against it that is really all that enforceable, i think, but it’s still — just really dumb. Most drivers are too distracted and aren’t alert enough to deal with the situation. Those who are, like I am, become very cautious and frightened, and even if I’m not in danger of causing an incident, I’m worried the driver behind me doesn’t notice and is going to be careless and flatten the poor soul. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that even if you’re in the right, that’s not a reason to trust someone else to do anything safely, especially when your safety is involved.)

    I do agree, there isn’t a “really good option” but the safest is likely to make a left (North) and use Sixth at the earliest opportunity, as you’ve stated as your preference.

    Of course, coming toward division from the east on a bicycle, which I often used to do traveling from work toward home, is to not use Seventh at all, planning and anticipating for the traffic situation being less-than-ideal. My option while on a bicycle is to either cross division at Front Street, with the traffic flow, using the signal. Failing that, dismounting and using the crosswalk at Seventh is also safer if you don’t want to burn 12 blocks’ distance for safety’s sake.

    But yes, at that intersection, there are few good options.

    As for the rest of Seventh street, I often see cyclists traveling eastbound. I shake my head, because I also know it probably isn’t a safe idea to ride a moped on I-75.

  9. September 22, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I’m certainly more lenient on the bike users and more forgiving in terms of “rule breaking” than you, Joe. Thank you for your comments all the same. Open, civil discussion is needed and if we get one bike user to think twice about going against traffic down a one-way or riding on the sidewalk, we’ve succeeded in something.

    The fact remains that while on bikes, we aren’t the same as other vehicles. We have more options and we are more aware of surroundings. We are also more aware of distances and if it appears safe, most many bike users will take the direct route irregardless of the ‘rules’. Is it perfect? No. Can we do better individually? Certainly. We can also do better socially by building smart systems and complete streets that make sense. Currently, we have a system built for drivers of cars and SUVs and the majority of the design serves their priority, not non-motorized active users. Over 40,000 people are killed per year in the United States due to automobile crashes, many of which are caused by over-confident drivers driving on roads built for speed. I save the majority of my rants about traffic violations for those driving 2-ton weapons. And, just a little rage concern for the few bike users being wankers…

    Again, thank you for the comments. Keep them coming. New voices are appreciated.

  10. Peter Spaulding
    September 22, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I agree, there is really no way to force a behavior (speed limits, no-turn signs, you name it). That being said, our transportation system and it’s design encourages and empowers certain behaviors, even as a sign may tell us to drive 35, if the roadway is designed for 45… that’s what is going to happen. Design constantly gives us signals as to how we should ride or drive. Unfortunately cyclists and pedestrians more frequently than not, lie on the receiving end of dangerous, inadequate systems and dangerous automotive behaviors.

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