(not) Planning for Other Modes

“It was determined, when doing the design of this construction project, that traffic volumes were just too high,” said spokeswoman Ashley Hungate. “There are too many lanes to cross safely to put the pedestrian signal in.”

While this quote comes to us from Indiana, it could just as well be from Florida.  In Eric’s recent entry about the challenge engineers face in designing roadways, a big topic of discussion centered around the choices that have to made when incorporating designs into roadways that make them ‘safe’ for cyclists and pedestrians.

This $26 Million project from Indiana highlights exactly why sometimes the road IS the problem. Adding bike lanes or grade separated crosswalks are potential solutions but they don’t really make traveling the roadway using any other mode safer, and as many will point out, these are not always desired solutions. Not to mention, the roadway probably isn’t much ‘safer’ for cars either. These roadway designs are also not generally designed to improve economic development either, as quoted in the article by the business owners affected by the new roadway configuration.

Which begs the question, what is the goal of the roadway improvement? Is it to make the roadway safer? Support economic development? Or to improve roadway capacity and decrease congestion? Nearly always, it’s the third reason given which is why we end up with corridors where no one walks, cyclists avoid it and where cars are just passing through. How can any agency in good conscience design a roadway that lacks a basic piece of infrastructure and justify it as a ‘safety’ issue? Build it and they will come? Don’t build it and let them all fend for themselves?

I have noticed a recent uptick in interest in bike/ped safety, particularly pedestrian safety in the region. I hope that it filters down to the folks that actually make the design decisions and we see more humane roadway designs in the future. But there’s a lot of designs already in the pipeline that are likely not going to change. If I’m not mistaken, the lifecycle of a newly reconstructed/constructed roadway is at least 20 years or so.

3 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    Laura, thanks for posting this! I think that article illustrates the problem really well. Humans are screwed to move more cars faster. Pedestrians can’t cross safely. Passing motorists can’t access businesses. Business owners suffer. Eventually the corridor becomes a blighted hellscape unfit for human life. The whole community is degraded. All because of a myopic focus on the throughput of (mostly single-occupant) motor vehicles.

  2. Serge Issakov
    Serge Issakov says:

    Great post, Laura.

    High capacity/high speed roads simply enable longer trips for more people, and artificially reduce the natural demand for high density life. If so many people couldn’t easily get so far so quickly and conveniently, they would demand (in a market sense) to be closer.

    The roads are the problem, indeed.

Comments are closed.