On Improved Street Design

The folks who live around 63rd and Shirley have been having issues with traffic speeding down 63rd. There have also been a number of accidents at this particular intersection. During a meeting, a representative from Omaha’s Public Works Department suggested putting a roundabout in the intersection as a traffic calming device.

During the meeting, he also made the statement that the bike lanes where the part of why traffic sped along this stretch of road. Initially, I was tempted to reject this premise out of hand, but on visiting the site realized that he was correct to a small degree. With parking only allowed on one side of the street and bile lanes on both sides, the available roadbed is probably wider than most. Combine that with the straight road, the perception is that the traffic can travel faster than desired (or posted.)

His solution: remove the bike lanes. The fallacy is that the roadbed will maintain its width. Even if parking was then permitted on both sides, I haven’t seen much parking on road in the times I’ve been there. Perhaps, if traffic calming is the goal, another look at the design is needed.

Instead of simple painted bike lanes, suppose a bikeway protected by extruded concrete or bollards was installed. Further, on the side where parking is allowed, what if the bike lane were placed between the parked cars and the sidewalk. Now the roadbed available to cars is effectively narrowed and traffic is (or should be) slowed. Granted, such an approach would cost a bit more but could be priceless in preventing injury or worse. Furthermore, such a design (with its more than perceived higher safety level) could entice even more riders onto the street where their increased numbers would make them more visible to motorists and slow traffic even more.

Perhaps the only thing that needs to be ripped out for safer roads is the thinking in the Public Works Department. Just saying.

Roll on!


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