Duh: Slower street speeds and our urban quality of life go together like turkey and dressing.


Yesterday’s post recorded roughly double the customary number of page views:

Georgetown resident: Top speed when driving on ’em is why we have ’em, so get us through New Albany as fast as humanly possible.

Suggesting that the sole purpose of streets is to transport people as efficiently as possible from one location to another is like suggesting that the sole purpose of sex is procreation. Surely, engaging in both forms of commuting can be about more than merely a speedy arrival at the destination.

Dear reader, to refresh your memory, here’s what the suburbanite had to say:

#5 Reed Wrege 2013-11-22 21:57

The purpose of streets is to transport people as efficiently as possible from one location to another.

The intent of making more streets in New Albany two way is to slow down traffic. This is already being accomplished by the horrible lack of synchronization of the traffic lights.

I am not interested in having traffic slowed further…particularly as the volume is increasing!

Let’s be clear about this: The correspondent is attacking the notion of two-way streets because two-way streets will slow down traffic, which he accuses traffic lights of doing already. His blithe assumption: High speed driving in urban areas is safe.

Here’s another point of view, from Jeff Speck, which incorporates the counterintuitive world of traffic engineering and makes a series of crucial points about safety, which in an urban context necessarily involves … that’s right, slowing down traffic.

With fat lanes, traffic engineers kill in the name of safety
by Jeff Speck (Greater Greater Washington)

DC resident Jeff Speck wrote Suburban Nation, the best-selling book about city planning since Jane Jacobs. Greater Greater Washington is pleased to present 3 weekly excerpts from his new book, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.
Contrary to perceptions, the greatest threat to pedestrian safety is not crime, but the very real danger of automobiles moving quickly. Yet most traffic engineers, often in the name of safety, continually redesign city streets to support higher-speed driving.

This approach is so counterintuitive that it strains credulity: Engineers design streets for speeds well above the posted limit, so that speeding drivers will be safe—a practice that, of course, causes the very speeding it hopes to protect against …

… As with induced demand, the engineers have once again failed to comprehend that the way they design streets will have any impact on the way that people use them. By their logic, just as more lanes can’t cause more driving, high-speed lanes can’t cause high speeds. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the second great misunderstanding that lies at the root of most urban degradation today. Widening a city’s streets in the name of safety is like distributing handguns to deter gun violence.

Here’s a primer on streets, roads and stroads.

And: Here’s the handout.