Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Traffic Calming

My introduction to the concept of traffic calming came from an article in the April 2004 issue of the Utne Reader, now posted at the Project for Public Spaces.

Traffic calming strategies are meant to improve pedestrian safety and neighborhood life through slowing the progress of cars, using speed bumps and other structures. One article on the subject, which I can't currently find, described people in a city in Italy who were very upset about a traffic accident involving a child. So they began carrying old couches, sawhorses and other barricades into the street, not completely blocking the way for cars, but making it twist and turn so that cars would have to slow down. Eventually, city planners installed permanent green spaces and benches and curbs and speed bumps to accomplish the same things.

At the site for Trafficcalming.org, you can find information about the history of the movement:

"European traffic calming began as a grassroots movement in the late 1960s. Angry residents of the Dutch City of Delft fought cut-through traffic by turning their streets into woonerven, or "living yards." This was followed by the development of European slow streets (designed for 30 kph or 20 mph) in the late 1970s; the application of traffic calming principles to intercity highways through small Danish and German towns in the 1980s; and the treatment of urban arterials in areawide schemes, principally in Germany and France, also in the 1980s..."

Wikipedia has a fairly extensive entry on the subject here, reporting that:

"The Livable Streets study by Donald Appleyard (circa 1977) found that residents of streets with light traffic had, on average, three more friends and twice as many acquaintances as the people on streets with heavy traffic which were otherwise similar in dimensions, income, etc..."


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