Traffic calming was originally developed in Europe. This is a system of management and design strategies that seek to balance street use for traffic and other uses. The theory is that streets should create a space where people can safely walk, meet, shop, or work right alongside cars without being dominated by them. Traffic calming uses several strategies to create these spaces, and we’ll outline them below.
1. Diagonal Parking
The city sets streets up with diagonal parking spaces rather than spaces that fit tight to the walkway. This setup is inexpensive, simple, and it changes the function and perception of the street. For anyone crossing the street, it shortens their peering distance to make it safer. Drivers must be more alert overall with this parking method, and it can add a lot more parking space.
2. Narrowing Streets and Widening Sidewalks
This is a flexible way to reclaim space from the roadways and give it back to the pedestrians. Traditional traffic lanes are 12 or 13-feet across, but shortening them to nine feet can free up several feet for sidewalk or walkway expansion. You can transform space into bicycle lanes, and more narrow roadways discourage speeding. This improves the safety level of everyone on and around the road.
Roundabouts are raised, large circular islands situated in the middle of all major intersections. Oncoming traffic travels around the roundabout until they reach the street they want. Then, the vehicle exits the roundabout onto their chosen street. This creates a steady flow of traffic while reducing conflict points and lowering the chances of an accident. They have crosswalks in the more narrow sections of each street, and this slows down the flow of traffic to keep pedestrians safe.
4. Raised Medians
Raised medians are elevated islands that run down the middle of the street parallel to the traffic lanes. These medians help to curtail vehicle space while providing a safe stopping point for pedestrians as they make their way across the street. These are also great areas for flowers, trees, sculptures, benches, and other amenities.
5. Tighter Corners
The wider the curve is, the faster a vehicle can go around the same space. Corners are also blind spaces for pedestrians when they cross the street, and the cars can come out of nowhere. If you tighten up the corners up between up to 20 feet, this can force vehicles to slow down. Additionally, any pedestrians in the area have a better chance of seeing any oncoming cars and getting out of the way.
6. Speed Tables and Bumps
Speed tables or bumps are gently raised areas of the street that force traffic to slow down when they go over them. They can be rounded mounds, and they are usually the same distances apart. Pedestrians can walk across these speed tables or bumps without a problem, and you find them around crosswalks. The pedestrians can get a clear view of any cars, and the cars can see the pedestrians as they slow down.
7. Traffic Circles
Traffic circles are scaled-back versions of roundabouts that work well at smaller intersections. You find them at points where larger congested areas narrow down to residential streets. Traffic circles help to slow down oncoming traffic before it gets into residential areas, and it gives people who live by this area the peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re safer when they go out.
Traffic calming measures have had great success across Europe, and we’re starting to see them crop up all over the United States. Both large cities and smaller towns can benefit from at least one or two traffic calming measures, if not all of them. Going forward, we’ll most likely see these things becoming the new normal as more pedestrians share the road with vehicles.