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Calming the Traffic on your Neighborhood Streets

In the last decade, when looking for housing, many people have participated in the “suburban sprawl.” They are willing to go further and further away from where they work in order to pay less to live. They spend hours of their day commuting back and forth in traffic. They are constantly looking for new shortcuts, a faster time, another way to make the drive seem shorter. 

Their driving gets more aggressive – racing up to stop signs, slamming breaks and accelerating the very second that the intersection is clear. Speeding through residential areas because its supposed to be a “short cut.” How can we stop this? We have our safety and the environment to think about. Two words; traffic calming. It’s exactly what it sounds like! It’s taking traffic that is out of control with speed, noise, and pollution, and bringing it back to a slower paced state.

No More Aggressive Driving Behavior

Less speeding up to stop signs and red lights only to slam on breaks at every corner. We will not see cars accelerating by our homes while our kids play in the yard. In many accidents, the speed factor is closely related to the severity of the accident. The cost of an accident to society is so large, it is just not worth it. We need to prevent these accidents. The City of Montreal recently unveiled their new traffic calming measures, which included speed limits as low as 30km/h in schools and other neighborhoods.

Different Measures

There are various types of traffic calming measures that can be taken. When deciding on them, there are 3 main factors in developing a plan to address neighborhood concern, as per the City of Ottawa. The factors include the effectiveness in solving the problem, the secondary impacts which may occur and the capital as well as operating cost incurred.

Taking the Right Approach

Based on the issue at hand, there are different approaches to traffic calming, covering everything from the number of vehicles and their speed to issues with the physical road or just plain ignorance. For high volume concerns, medians, turning prohibitions, and one way streets are just a few of the suggestions. When speed and behavior is a concern, speed zoning, street parking, pavement markings, and narrowing of the street are recommended. Physical measures are another approach to traffic calming, that includes speed humps, traffic circles, raised crosswalks and intersections. Bringing in speed radars and law enforcement officers helps to educate and enforce speed laws. Traffic calming can include the optimization of traffic lights to help traffic flow better. This way drivers can move at a constant speed, and not have to be in their NASCAR race mindset everyday on their commute.

Putting It To The Test

A case study around a traffic calming implementation into Port Moody, BC left positive results. Speed humps were shown to be especially effective as prior to their implementation the 85th percentile speed was 50km/h, though it was a posted speed of 30km/h. Once 3 speed humps were installed, spaced 70m apart, the new 85th percentile speed was 31-35km/h. The town also installed medians, roundabouts, on street parking and other traffic calming measures.

Reduce Neighborhood Complaints

When cars are driving though these neighborhoods, they’re only thinking about the fastest way to get around. They’re not thinking about the most vulnerable people around them, pedestrians and cyclists. Motorists are taking their so-called “short cuts” through residential areas. These are areas where kids play, dogs run, people live. What can residents do?  The City of Ottawa has a formal process which residents request that their concern be looked into by a Traffic Specialist. From there, there are options depending on the results. A quick fix consisting of a speed survey or police enforcement and posting of new speed limits is an option. The alternative is a more extensive project. They can also deter drivers from taking routes through residential areas by providing real time updates on traffic ahead on the arterial roads. With traffic calming in effect, residential streets can be residential again rather than an unofficial by-pass.

Closer to “Green”

When driving down side streets through neighborhoods there is a constant stop and go. Stop sign, after stop sign; accelerate only to hit the brakes moments later. With traffic calming, the main route is the main road. Moving at a steady pace on the main roads with traffic light optimization will limit the stop-and-go traffic which is harmful to the environment. Not only does this help the environment, but also your wallet.

Traffic calming is set to increase the overall safety of those both on and off of the road. With less stop and go traffic and a more consistent driving experience, drivers will be more inclined to stay on the main roads. This also contributes to the environment in a positive way. Traffic calming is easy to implement with the use of sensors. Data can be collected to plan for the expansion of roads and the optimization of traffic lights. Traffic calming is just the beginning.

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