Category Archives: Complete Streets

ON COMPLETE STREETS

The road is frequented by a variety of users – drivers, public transit vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. However, as each of these users, there are many obstacles, which typically involve the other users getting in the way. This is most common for drivers – since the typical North American road design is oriented towards easy mobility for cars, drivers have adjusted to a culture of innate entitlement for the road. This makes it more difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to get around, less likely for people to use transit, and increases the likelihood for a collision.

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It is no longer uncommon to hear about cyclist deaths in the City – and it’s not always one person’s fault. It’s the way our streets are designed. There are definitely careless drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, that cause accidents. However, if the road was designed to cater for everyone equally, in a way that prevented anyone from feeling like they ‘own the road’, then everyone would naturally look out for each other.

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A ‘ghost bike’ commemorates the death of a fallen cyclist in a roadside accident.

There is a fairly modern transportation policy and design approach called ‘Complete Streets‘ that advocates the ‘share the road‘ mentality. The goal for the Complete Streets approach is to achieve and maintain safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. In many cases where the Complete Streets approach has already been implemented, the designs have proven to improve safety, health, economic and environmental outcomes.

measuring-the-street Since automobile dependence has been engrained into American city designs from the start, many regions are interested in adopting Complete Streets policies into their own Official Plans, in order to move forward in a more sustainable and safe manner through design. This is part of the reason why roundabout, public transit and bike lane funding have become such hot topics, for example.

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This rendering illustrates a person’s idea of what Yonge street could look like if it was redesigned under Complete Streets standards. Notice a few things – wider sidewalks, bike lanes, interlock pavement for drivers (the more detail in the paving, the more likely people are to slow down, reducing the likelihood of a collision), and seating.

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Complete Streets means everyone shares the road. Complete Streets means everyone gets equal respect. Complete Streets means everyone gets to where they are going safely.

TWO CENTS ON ROUNDABOUTS

Pro-roundabout residents in Canada argue that collisions occur at roundabouts because people don’t know how to use them – this article is trying to prove that logic wrong:

WATERLOO – “People drove more often through more roundabouts in 2011 – and yet they continued to collide at the same high pace. This suggests no progress on a learning curve uncerway since 2004 when roundabouts were first installed.”

Retrieved from: http://www.therecord.com/news/local/article/804446

I don’t think that roundabouts are a band-aid solution to every problematic intersection, but I do still think that, if warranted, a roundabout’s engineering is not usually the cause for collisions – lack of education is. If collisions continue to occur at roundabouts, it’s because people are so frustrated with them that they have become stubborn and refuse to understand. They accrue bad habits and stick to them.

Hopefully roundabout education and testing is being incorporated into new generations of drivers to build a safer attitude towards using roundabouts for the future. I think that if everyone understands how to use one, and more importantly, that they are built for more than just drivers (respect for multimodal transportation is way behind on awareness), the mentality can often surpass the safety of a poorly engineered roundabout.

For example, I’m not an experienced transportation planner, nor am I a roundabout engineer, but I do know that the roundabouts in Square One must be poorly engineered. I make this assumption because even when I deliberately go out of my way to check for cyclists and pedestrians in all directions at all times, and pay close attention to the number and speed of vehicles approaching and using the roundabout, and try really hard to make a safe decision for when it’s my turn to enter the roundabout, I still feel like a possible collision may be out of my control. I feel anxious, worried, and uncertain. This is mainly because the approach is not clear enough, there is a lack of visibility, and the size of the roundabout is so small that it’s over before you know it. A secondary reason is because the driving attitude in Mississauga is rough and cocky, meaning that if you want to be safe you actually need to expect people to drive too fast and to be assholes about it in order to seize the opportunity to foresee an accident.

So yes, roundabouts can be poorly engineered. And yes, those roundabouts can entice collisions to occur. But a warranted, well planned and engineered roundabout can be extremely beneficial for optimizing traffic flow and safety. That is, only if these two things change:

  1. All roundabout users must fully understand how to use a roundabout;
  2. Everyone must accept that roads are for everyone (drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists), and must learn to respect each mode equally (working towards a complete streets mentality).

In the mean time, here is an informative video by the MTO for how to use a roundabout:

http://youtu.be/lbC3CAa-8vA

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