Shared space in Ashford, England

Traffic expert Ben Hamilton-Baillie discusses the results of a pilot project for changing roads to more “shared space” in the town of Ashford in Kent, UK.

As a driver entering the new streets, you are immediately aware that this is somewhere different, somewhere special. It feels quite unlike a normal urban road. You start to pay extra attention, and to become more alert to other people and to your surroundings. The narrower apparent width of the carriageways, the absence of road markings and signals, the lighting, low kerbs and distinctive paving all help to encourage low speeds, whether you are familiar with the space or a newcomer. Every aspect of the scheme contributes to establishing a naturally low-speed, free-flowing environment.

You can read the entire interview and see before and after pictures on Tom Vanderbilt’s blog.

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!

Charleston converts one-way through streets to two-way neighborhood streets

Mayor Joe Riley said […] he doesn’t feel any sense of delay driving down Beaufain or Wentworth streets these days —streets the city changed to two-way traffic a few years ago.

“Actually, it (going a little slower) is more pleasant because you don’t have to worry about someone passing you and them mentally thinking they are on some big arterial highway,” he said.

If they can do it in Charleston, we can do it in Woodside!  Thanks to the Pedestrianist.

Support Daylighting for Safer Streets!

Download and print this as a PDF file!

As concerned neighbors, we are asking you to support our request to remove 2-3 parking spaces from Skillman Avenue at the corners of 51st , 52nd and 55th Streets – at most 9 spaces – and turn them into sidewalk. Here are some things we want you to know as you consider this issue:

  1. Daylighting would not hurt businesses. The success of our neighborhood stores and services is very important to us. The parking spaces we are asking to be turned into sidewalk are all residential parking. From our observations, cars leave these spaces about once a week, and therefore they are almost never available to customers of the businesses on Skillman.
  2. Daylighting would protect the young and the elderly. We decided to ask for daylighting after a young girl was hit by a car whose driver did not stop at the stop sign or look for pedestrians. (Luckily, she was not badly hurt, but it could have been much worse.) Removing two to three parked cars at only one corner of each of these three intersections would allow drivers to pay more attention to pedestrians and make it easier for them to follow the law.
  3. Daylighting is only part of our proposal. We are also asking for sidewalk extensions at these corners, and we would also support raised crosswalks – essentially a speed bump in the crosswalk. We have also asked for traffic signals, but the Department of Transportation turned down our request. Daylighting would not be necessary if traffic lights are installed.

52nd and Skillman: A History of Crashes

In his petition, Al Volpe asks his neighbors to sign onto the assertion that “Skillman Avenue is a very safe street.”  This is simply not true. 

CrashStat is a website set up by Transportation Alternatives showing crashes around the city resulting in pedestrian or cyclist injury from 1995 to 2005, based on data compiled from police reports by the New York State Department of Transportation.  It shows that there were six separate such crashes at the corner of 52nd and Skillman during this period: pedestrians were injured in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005.  These are in addition to the crash in May when a girl was injured, but not seriously.

Compare this, for example, to the stretch of 50th Avenue between 44th Street and 49th Street, where there were no injuries at all during this period.  Now that’s what I call a very safe street!