Road Diets, Part 3: Two More Successes

Road diets on Stone Way and Nickerson are greatly benefiting the surrounding community – driver and walker alike. It is because of these successes that Seattle should be considering a road diet on East Marginal Way in the Sodo District.

Despite worries, Road diets have been shown to greatly benefit communities as a whole, not just pedestrians or cyclists, and in ways not anticipated: reducing traffic flow rather than creating a bottleneck effect, lowering the amount of pedestrian-car collisions, and decreasing average speed limits.

Posted by Megan RisleyApril 15, 2011

Stone Way in Seattle, which underwent road-diet construction last year, has managed to carry just as much motorized traffic at decreased rates of speed with just as few (and fewer, in fact!) traffic jams, all while accommodating more cyclists than before.  Not only are the streets safer for other drivers with decreased speeds and an actual turn lane (so that drivers don’t have to stop in the middle of their lane and wait for a clearing to turn), but the wider lanes help prevent accidental dings to cars parked on the sides of the street.  And, the bike lane provides extra distance between traffic and sidewalk, which has encouraged more foot traffic to the myriad retailers along Stone Way.  Traffic on quieter neighborhood streets did not increase as residents feared – actually, the only road that showed any increase in traffic was the nearby streets of Woodlawn Park Avenue at 42nd and at 50th, and less than 30 percent, and only at rush hour.

The road diet on Nickerson, completed in August of last year, has been just as successful, despite more than half of the people surveyed were not in support of it.  The same number of cars have been able to use the road (between 15,000 and 18,000 daily), and the average speed has decreased from 44 to about 40 – an important statistic given that Seattle Pacific University’s campus borders Nickerson between 6th Ave and 3rd Ave.  Students feel safer as they walk to and from classes (which meet on both sides of Nickerson every day), as well as to and from campus to shops, restaurants and their homes.  The road diet included a crosswalk near one of the transit stops, which has decreased pedestrian collisions and encouraged safe crossing for both driver and pedestrian – people now don’t have to wait for a clearing in both directions and cars don’t have to stop as a kind gesture, blocking their line, to let a person cross.  Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is still monitoring the results of this project, but so far, the fears of those that objected to the project have gone largely unmet. These are also two roads traveled frequently by the freight community.

Thus, it would seem that East Marginal Way in the Georgetown neighborhood, though a somewhat different situation altogether, would also benefit from a road diet, though  Seattleindustry.org points out a few of the difficulties this area of faces.  The article points out that road diets might unnecessarily redirect road use from needed car and freight space to the under-demanded space for cyclists.  In an industrial area, there is an understandable debate over how the limited road space can best be used.  Of course, the retail and commercial shops would benefit from more foot traffic, which road diets would help promote by the ways they more safely direct vehicles (that is, farther away from sidewalks).  Beyond the obvious benefits for walkers and bikers, though, road diets promote safety for drivers.  A road diet allows for wider lane use, and decreases the volume of traffic drivers have to deal with on either side of them – a major concern for big semi and truck operators.

Overall, the results of road diets have been overwhelmingly positive.  While the fear of cramped driving space aggravating traffic jam problems, the worry that bike lanes won’t be sufficiently utilized, and the concern that a “complete street” might really not be worth the cost are understandable, streets that have undergone road diet modifications have reported improvements.  And decrease of average speed, reduction in pedestrian collisions, and increased safety for all road users are some main reasons why we put feet first!

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