One-Way to Decrease Residential Livability
Guest Contributor: Peter Spaulding, part 3 of 3.
- Part I: One-way & Two-way Streets Reflect a Community’s Priorities
- Part II: A One-Way Desert of Parking: State Street
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.
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.
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.