Fixing a perfect storm of bad planning and design

Asked about typical modern shopping corridors, Texas A&M Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning Eric Dumbaugh replied:
“from a traffic safety perspective, the modern commercial arterial is a perfect storm of bad planning and design. These roads are designed to support high operating speeds, making it difficult for drivers to stop quickly to avoid a crash, and the presence of commercial and retail uses on these roads means that drivers will routinely need to stop quickly in order to avoid crashing into pedestrians, bicyclists, and especially vehicles turning in and out of driveways.”
The 2006 article, Safe Urban Form: Revisiting the Relationship Between Community Design and Traffic Safety, by Eric Dumbaugh and Robert Rae, notes:
Results and conclusions: We find that many of the safety assumptions embedded in contemporary community design practice are not substantiated by the empirical evidence. While disconnecting local street networks and relocating nonresidential uses to arterial thoroughfares can reduce neighborhood traffic volumes, this does not appear to improve safety, but rather substitutes one set of safety problems for another. We found urban arterials, arterial-oriented commercial developments, and big box stores to be associated with increased incidences of traffic-related crashes and injuries, while higher-density communities with more traditional, pedestrian-scaled retail configurations were associated with fewer crashes. We found intersections to have mixed effects on crash incidence. We conclude by discussing the likely reasons for these findings (vehicle operating speeds and systematic design error) and outline three community design strategies that may help improve traffic safety.
As in Communities, not cul-de-sacs.
Takeaway for practice: Community design is strongly associated with crash incidence. The speed and operating characteristics of arterial thoroughfares, as well as the design and configuration of commercial and retail uses, appear to be particularly important. Our findings suggest that safety may be enhanced by strictly managing access along arterial thoroughfares and by locating commercial and retail uses away from these roadways, or at least orienting them toward lower-speed access lanes with limited connections to the arterial system. Designing communities to have higher-density, more urban design configurations generally appears to help reduce crash incidence, although four-leg intersections pose potential traffic hazards.
Or maybe even don’t cut down trees that already line a road.


One thought on “Fixing a perfect storm of bad planning and design

  1. Fred Rodgers

    Access roads and other techniques are important for separating through traffic from retail customers. Commercial ventures seem to always fight zoning boards on this.

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