Yield streets can be safer

Amy Pfeiffer of Transportation Alternatives observed that the wide travel lanes on Skillman Avenue encourage drivers to speed. This is confirmed in the book Suburban Nation, by the father of New Urbanism, Andres Duany, and his colleagues Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck (page 204):

We have already discussed pavement width, but we must be more specific. On well-traveled streets within a neighborhood, there is no justification for travel lanes wider than ten feet and parking lanes wider than seven feet. If either are any wider, the cars speed.

Duany and his colleagues continue:

However, on less traveled residential streets, another logic should prevail, that of the “yield street.” Common in almost every prewar American neighborhood— but now summarily rejected by public works departments—the yield street used a single travel lane to handle traffic in both directions. When two cars approach each other, they both slow down, and one eases slightly into a parking lane while the other passes. Because traffic is necessarily slow, accidents are virtually unheard of on such streets in low-density neighborhoods.

This kind of thinking is counterintuitive, but it is borne out on one of the streets in our neighborhood that resembles a “yield street,” 54th Street between Skillman Avenue and 39th Drive.  CrashStat reveals that there were no injuries reported on that block (or on 39th Drive) during the study period of 1995-2005.  In that period, there was one crash resulting in pedestrian injury on the block of 54th Street south of Skillman, and three on the block of 52nd Street south of Skillman.

Some neighbors have complained to me about that block of 54th Street: it can be difficult to get through, especially if someone double-parks.  I have heard suggestions that it be made one-way to help traffic flow better.  However, given the “yield streets” concept and the CrashStat data, it is clear that one-way flow on this street would make drivers less cautious and the street less safe.  If anything, we should be looking in the other direction.

Thanks to Jon Koller, Dave Feucht, Matthew Lang and Robin Chase on the Streetsblog Network for refreshing my memory when I forgot what these things were called!

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