Traffic Calming

Creating Safer Streets: Exploring the World of Traffic Calming

Innovative strategies and successful examples of traffic calming initiatives

There is a transformative power of traffic calming measures when creating safer streets. Explore innovative strategies, successful examples, and their impact on enhancing community livability and promoting sustainable transportation.

In transportation planning, traffic calming refers to a set of design strategies and measures aimed at reducing vehicle speeds and improving safety on streets. The goal is to create a safer and more pleasant environment for all road users, particularly pedestrians and cyclists.

Traffic calming measures are typically implemented in areas where there is a need to slow down traffic, such as residential neighborhoods, school zones, or areas with high pedestrian activity. These measures aim to change driver behavior and encourage more responsible and cautious driving.

Traffic Calming Departments

In a city, traffic calming initiatives are typically handled by multiple roles and departments working collaboratively to ensure effective implementation. Here are some of the key roles involved in traffic calming.

Transportation Planners

Transportation planners play a crucial role in analyzing traffic data, identifying areas that require traffic calming measures, and developing comprehensive plans to address specific issues. They assess traffic patterns, conduct studies, and recommend appropriate traffic calming strategies based on their expertise in transportation engineering and urban planning.

Traffic Engineers

Traffic engineers are responsible for the technical aspects of traffic calming implementation. They design and develop specific traffic calming measures, such as speed humps, roundabouts, and road narrowing.

A municipality's traffic engineers analyze traffic flow, conduct modeling and simulations, and ensure that traffic calming measures are implemented in compliance with local regulations and guidelines.

Public Works Departments

Public works departments are typically involved in the physical implementation of traffic calming measures. They oversee the installation of infrastructure elements such as speed humps, signage, pavement markings, and pedestrian improvements.

In addition, they will coordinate construction activities, manage budgets, and ensure the maintenance and upkeep of traffic calming infrastructure.

City Traffic or Transportation Departments

City traffic or transportation departments are responsible for overall traffic management and safety within the city. They often oversee traffic calming programs and initiatives, coordinate with other departments and stakeholders, and ensure the proper implementation and monitoring of traffic calming measures.

These departments may also conduct public outreach and education campaigns to raise awareness about traffic calming efforts and promote community involvement.

Community Engagement Specialists

Community engagement specialists play a crucial role in involving residents, businesses, and other stakeholders in the traffic calming process. They organize public meetings, gather feedback, and incorporate community input into the planning and design of traffic calming initiatives.

These specialists are tasked with ensuring that the needs and concerns of the community are taken into consideration, fostering a sense of ownership and support for the implemented measures.

Traffic Enforcement Agencies

Traffic enforcement agencies, such as local police departments and sheriff's offices, are responsible for enforcing traffic laws and regulations. They play a vital role in ensuring compliance with speed limits, yielding to pedestrians, and other traffic safety measures associated with traffic calming.

These law enforcement agencies may collaborate with transportation departments and provide input on areas that require enhanced enforcement to support traffic calming efforts.

Collaboration and coordination among these various roles are essential for the successful implementation of traffic calming initiatives.

By working together, these stakeholders can analyze data, design appropriate solutions, secure funding, engage the community, and effectively address traffic safety concerns in cities.

Traffic Calming Data

To assist with traffic calming efforts, transportation planners typically observe and analyze various types of data. This data helps identify problem areas, assess the effectiveness of implemented measures, and guide decision-making.

Datasets that are commonly observed in traffic calming initiatives include some of the following.

Speed Data

Measuring vehicle speeds is crucial for assessing the effectiveness of traffic calming measures.  

This data allows planners to identify areas with excessive speeding and determine the appropriate traffic calming interventions required to encourage compliance with speed limits.

Traffic Volume

The volume of vehicles passing through a particular road segment is a fundamental data point. It helps planners understand the level of traffic and potential congestion in a given area.

By analyzing traffic volume data, they can identify areas where traffic calming measures may be necessary to manage high volumes and reduce the potential for conflicts.

Crash Data

Analyzing crash data is vital for identifying high-risk locations and understanding the types of crashes occurring in a given area. Planners examine crash reports to determine the frequency, severity, and causes of crashes.

This data helps prioritize locations where traffic calming measures are necessary to enhance safety and reduce the likelihood of future accidents.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Counts

Observing pedestrian and bicycle volumes at specific locations is crucial for understanding the demand for active transportation and identifying areas where improvements are needed.

Count data helps planners determine the level of pedestrian and bicycle activity, assess the adequacy of existing facilities, and identify areas where traffic calming measures can enhance safety for vulnerable road users.

Community Input and Surveys

Gathering input from the community and stakeholders is crucial for understanding local concerns and preferences regarding traffic calming.

Surveys, public meetings, and community engagement initiatives provide valuable qualitative data, allowing planners to consider the perspectives of residents, businesses, and other users. This information helps in developing effective traffic calming strategies that align with the community's needs and desires.

By analyzing and integrating these various data sources, transportation planners can develop a comprehensive understanding of traffic patterns, safety issues, and community needs.

This data-driven approach enables them to implement targeted and effective traffic calming measures that address specific challenges and improve the overall safety and functionality of roadways.

Traffic Calming Techniques

Once departments have a clear understanding of the data and roads in their community, they can confidently implement new calming initiatives.

There are various techniques and elements used in traffic calming, including some of the following.

Speed Humps and Speed Cushions

Speed humps are raised sections of pavement typically placed across residential streets or near schools. They force drivers to slow down as they navigate over the raised portion.

Speed cushions are similar but have cutouts to allow emergency vehicles and buses to straddle them while still encouraging other vehicles to slow down.

These measures effectively reduce vehicle speeds, creating safer environments for pedestrians and discouraging speeding in residential areas.

Speed Tables

Speed tables are wider and flatter compared to speed humps. They span the entire width of the roadway, providing a raised section that compels drivers to reduce their speed.

Speed tables are particularly effective in areas where traffic calming is needed while accommodating the passage of emergency vehicles and larger vehicles.

Chicanes and Traffic Circles

Chicanes are traffic calming measures that create a winding or serpentine effect on the road. They are achieved by alternating the alignment of parking lanes or adding medians, resulting in a visually narrower roadway. Chicanes slow down traffic by introducing changes in alignment, making drivers more cautious and reducing straight-line speeding.

Traffic circles, or roundabouts, are circular intersections where vehicles must yield before entering. They reduce vehicle speeds and enhance safety by eliminating high-speed through movements.

Raised Crosswalks

Raised crosswalks are elevated pedestrian crossings that raise the pedestrian pathway to the same level as the sidewalk. This design visually emphasizes the presence of pedestrians, increases their visibility, and alerts drivers to yield and slow down.

Raised crosswalks enhance pedestrian safety by providing a physical barrier between pedestrians and vehicles, reducing the risk of conflicts and encouraging drivers to be more attentive at crossings.

Narrowing Roadways

Narrowing roadways involves reducing the width of travel lanes or adding bulb-outs at intersections. Narrower lanes create the perception of a tighter space, leading drivers to reduce their speed. Adding bulb-outs, which extend the sidewalk into the roadway, not only reduces crossing distances for pedestrians but also visually narrows the road, compelling drivers to slow down.

These measures enhance safety by discouraging high speeds and improving conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.

Landscaping and Streetscaping

Incorporating landscaping and streetscaping elements, such as trees, plantings, street furniture, and greenery, can significantly impact the perception of speed and create a more appealing environment.

Trees and greenery provide visual cues that suggest a residential or pedestrian-oriented environment, prompting drivers to reduce their speed. Additionally, the presence of street furniture and attractive streetscapes can create a sense of place and encourage a more relaxed driving behavior.

Road Markings and Signage

Effective use of road markings, crosswalks, signage, and other visual cues can play a crucial role in traffic calming efforts. Clear and well-marked crosswalks draw attention to pedestrian crossings and remind drivers to yield.

Speed limit signage, speed feedback signs, or advisory speed plaques can alert drivers to reduce their speed in specific areas. Additionally, pavement markings, such as lane narrowing lines or traffic calming symbols, can visually reinforce the need to slow down and navigate the roadway more cautiously.

By implementing these traffic calming measures, transportation planners aim to create safer and more livable streets, improving pedestrian and cyclist safety, encouraging responsible driving behavior, and fostering vibrant communities.

Traffic Calming Success Stories

There are numerous successful examples of traffic calming initiatives implemented in cities around the world.

Here are a few notable examples from around the United States, including several Urban SDK customers.

Neighborhood Greenways in Portland (OR)

Portland has developed a network of neighborhood greenways, which are low-traffic streets designed to prioritize walking and cycling. These streets feature a range of traffic calming measures, including speed bumps, traffic diverters, enhanced crosswalks, and wayfinding signage.

The neighborhood greenways connect residential areas, schools, parks, and commercial corridors, providing safe and comfortable routes for active transportation.

Park Avenue, Winter Park (FL)

Park Avenue in Winter Park is a bustling shopping and dining destination. To enhance pedestrian safety and comfort, the city implemented traffic calming measures such as raised crosswalks, wider sidewalks, outdoor seating areas, and landscaping.

These improvements have created a more inviting and walkable environment, reducing vehicle speeds and increasing pedestrian activity.

Coral Way, Miami

Coral Way is a major arterial road in Miami that has seen successful traffic calming efforts. The street underwent a road diet, reducing the number of travel lanes and reallocating space for bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and landscaped medians.

The redesign has resulted in improved pedestrian and cyclist safety, reduced speeding, and a more pleasant streetscape.

Vision Zero in New York City

New York City implemented the Vision Zero initiative with the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

The city has introduced numerous traffic calming measures, including the implementation of pedestrian plazas, installation of protected bike lanes, redesigning intersections with pedestrian safety improvements, and reducing speed limits.

These measures, with a focus on Vision Zero, have helped to significantly reduce traffic fatalities and improve safety for all road users.

Complete Streets in Minneapolis

Minneapolis has embraced the Complete Streets approach, which ensures that streets are designed to accommodate all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. The city has implemented a range of traffic calming measures, such as traffic circles, curb extensions, and enhanced pedestrian crossings.

These traffic calming measures have improved safety, encouraged active transportation, and enhanced the overall livability of the city.

Downtown Orlando

The city of Orlando has implemented traffic calming measures in its downtown area to improve safety and enhance the pedestrian experience. These include the introduction of bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bulb-outs, and traffic circles.

As a result, these improvements have made downtown Orlando more walkable, encouraging active transportation and supporting local businesses.

St. George Street, St. Augustine

St. George Street is a historic pedestrian street in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. The city has implemented traffic calming measures, including bollards, brick pavers, and limited vehicle access, to prioritize pedestrian movement.

This has created a pedestrian-friendly environment, preserving the historic character of the street while ensuring safety and an enjoyable experience for visitors.

These examples demonstrate how American cities, large and small, are adopting various traffic calming strategies and measures to create safer, more walkable, and bike-friendly environments — all while prioritizing the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.

By implementing these initiatives, cities are working towards reducing traffic-related injuries and fatalities, improving the quality of life for residents, and promoting sustainable modes of transportation.

The Future of Traffic Calming

The future of traffic calming holds exciting possibilities as cities and transportation systems continue to evolve. Here are some potential trends and developments that may shape the future of traffic calming.

Technology Integration

Advancements in technology will play a significant role in traffic calming. Traffic calming solutions like Urban SDK, Intelligent transportation systems, connected vehicles, and smart infrastructure can contribute to more effective traffic management. For example, dynamic speed control systems can adjust speed limits based on real-time traffic conditions, and automated enforcement technologies can enhance compliance with traffic calming measures.

Data-Driven Approaches

The use of data will become even more prominent in traffic calming efforts. This is why Urban SDK has created a platform where officials can quickly access, map, and report on traffic data — enabling them to more comprehensively produce and justify traffic calming measures.

Advanced analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can help transportation planners and engineers make informed decisions. Data on traffic volumes, speeds, and crash statistics can be used to identify problem areas, evaluate the effectiveness of implemented measures, and optimize traffic calming strategies.

Complete Streets as a Standard

The concept of complete streets, which prioritize the needs of all road users, will continue to gain momentum. More cities will adopt complete streets policies and design guidelines, integrating traffic calming measures into street infrastructure from the outset.

Complete streets will provide safe and accessible spaces for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, promoting active transportation and reducing reliance on private vehicles.

Innovative Design Elements

Future traffic calming measures will likely incorporate innovative design elements to create safer and more pleasant streets. These may include shared spaces, raised intersections, protected intersections, separated bike lanes, and advanced pedestrian crossings.

Green infrastructure, such as rain gardens and bioswales, may also be integrated to manage stormwater runoff while enhancing the streetscape.

This will be aided by digital twin and sophisticated mapping technology.

Focus on Equity and Social Justice

There will be an increased emphasis on equity and social justice in traffic calming initiatives. Efforts will be made to address historical disparities and ensure that underserved communities have access to safe and accessible streets.

Traffic calming strategies will be implemented with a focus on reducing the impact of traffic-related health issues and improving the quality of life for all residents.

Engaged and Participatory Approaches

Community engagement and participatory design processes will be integral to future traffic calming initiatives. Cities will involve residents, businesses, and stakeholders in the decision-making process, seeking their input and incorporating local knowledge and experiences.

This collaborative approach will lead to more effective and widely accepted traffic calming measures that reflect the unique needs and preferences of each community. It will also cut down on the cost of congestion and boost local revenues.

Multimodal Integration

As cities strive to create sustainable and multimodal transportation systems, traffic calming efforts will focus on integrating various modes of transportation. This includes providing safe infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, as well as optimizing traffic flow to accommodate shared mobility services such as e-scooters and bike-sharing programs.

Multimodal integration will prioritize safety, efficiency, and accessibility for all users.

The future of traffic calming holds great potential to create safer, more sustainable, and livable cities. Through the integration of technology, data-driven decision-making, innovative design elements, and an equitable approach, traffic calming initiatives will contribute to enhancing safety, improving transportation options, and creating vibrant communities.