5 Ways Cities Can Design Better Roads

city engineering tips for safer streets design

City streets are not just pathways for vehicles, because public roads play a vital role in how civilians shop, walk, and meet throughout the city. Each year traffic accidents kill more than 1.2 million people each year world wide, so making city streets can become safer by making better decisions for urban design. 

While most traffic initiatives tend to focus on improving the behavior of drivers and pedestrians throughout the city limits, there are several engineering improvements that cities can use to improve the ability for drivers to navigate city roads. Here are just a few of the most common engineering strategies that city planners can use to improve the safety of driver, pedestrians, and cyclists on public roads. 

1. Reduce Traffic Speed

Speed kills when it comes to traffic fatalities, and city planners can reduce the chances that a vehicle will collide with a pedestrian by merely lowering the speed limit in dense traffic areas. Several studies show that automobile speeds below 25-31 MPH drastically reduce the risks posed to pedestrians.

To see the benefits of lowered speeds, cities can implement low-speed zones along with a variety of traffic calming design strategies.

If a city wants to encourage pedestrian traffic for the economic and environmental reason, they will need to implement some engineering strategies to reduce vehicle speeds on city streets, and a few of these tactics include:

  • Low-speed zones
  • Speed humps
  • Curves in the road to reduce vehicle speeds
  • Curb extensions
  • Raised pedestrian crossings

Placing a variety of speed calming equipment near intersections and crosswalks can have a substantial impact on vehicle speeds. In many cases, this approach can reduce vehicle speed by 10 MPH or more, and this has a direct effect on the safety of pedestrians in the immediate area.

2. Build “Complete” Streets

While many cities grew as cars were rising in popularity, today cities have the responsibility to design their roads with pedestrians and cyclists in mind. Ensuring the safety of mixed usage on public roads is necessary, and “complete streets” mean that all types of users can utilize city roads efficiently and safely.

Pedestrian islands are a great example of how engineers can design roads in a way that allow pedestrians to cross busy streets safely. Instead of forcing pedestrians to pass large drives in a way that makes the vulnerable, designers can create pedestrian islands to help keep pedestrians safe.

These safety features offer an area for pedestrians to stand safely as they cross a street. Instead of exposing themselves to oncoming traffic and taking the risk of getting hit, pedestrians can use this area to evaluate their oncoming traffic and cross the street safely.

3. Dedicate Spaces For Pedestrians

Encouraging pedestrian foot traffic in a city is not just right for the environment, because pedestrians are also a great way to boost the local economy. Unlike drivers, pedestrians can quickly and easily move from shop to shop without congesting the road or posing dangers to nearby citizens.

More than 6,000 pedestrians were killed in 2017 on U.S. public roads, and as the country’s population continues to increase this means that more people than ever before are in danger as they travel on city streets.

US pedestrian deaths city roads safety tips engineering city better road design
Image Source: https://i2.wp.com/usa.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2016/03/Screen-Shot-2016-03-09-at-2.59.35-PM.png

Sidewalks are a great way to encourage pedestrian traffic, but cities can also use pedestrian-only streets and street plazas to protect walkers and boost the city’s local economy.

New York City is a leader in the global shift to focus on pedestrian street space. For example, NYC has changed a large section of Times Square is now only accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. As a result of their pedestrian-first design, the city has seen a 16% decrease in speeding and a 26% of pedestrian deaths and injuries in pedestrian plazas.

4. Create Connected & Safe Cyclist Networks

Several studies have shown that injury rates go down as more people use dedicated infrastructure like off-street trails and bike lanes. These types of dedicated cycling networks offer cyclists a more convenient and efficient way to travel throughout the city, and by separating cyclists from vehicles, city planners are able to reduce the chances of injuries or deaths.

Building “complete streets” means that city planners need to think about pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers when building transportation systems.

Integrating off-street trails, bike lanes, protected bike lanes, and bike boulevards are just a few ways that engineers can encourage more people to bike throughout the city.

This approach will not only reduce traffic congestion, but it could also improve the culture throughout the city and this can have several benefits for the entire community.

5. Use Data To Detect Problem Areas

With the growth of Big Data, city planners have more tools at their disposal than ever before to identify areas in their city that pose the most risk to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. City lawmakers can use information from integrated infrastructure and reported incidents to create a detailed map that highlights traffic crash data.

Over time city engineers build a detailed map they will be able to allocate the time, money, and resources to areas with the most problems. This approach can help alleviate ongoing safety concerns that can have a significant impact on the growth and happiness of citizens.

The largest metropolitan areas across the world have started using analytical models to understand crash data over a period of time. City officials are able to find specific issues that lead to pedestrian and cyclists deaths, and this information can help direct efforts to make city streets safer for all users.

As cities continue to grow and more drivers hit the road, city planners will need to find ways to improve how drivers and pedestrians interact with each other. Encouraging safer behaviors for everyone on the road is a great place to start, and engineers will need to utilize different strategies to ensure the safety of everyone who uses public roads.

Let’s keep an eye out for additional measures that city planners can use to grow their city, improve transportation efficiency, and make public roads safer for everyone!

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Author: Chris Giarratana

Chris is a Digital Media Strategy and AdWords management consultant in Orlando, FL. He develops marketing strategies for small businesses, researches emerging technologies, and enjoys studying transportation issues.

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