Milone & MacBroom's Neil Olinski presented at the Annual Multi-Modal Transit Summit

Dec 03, 2019
Neil Olinski Prioritizing Safety Street Design Nov19 Mobile

At a panel discussion on safe road design Monday, traffic planning experts discussed a few of the measures that cities in Connecticut are adopting, or might consider adopting, to make roads safer. On the menu: roundabouts, and trimming the fat from car lanes in what planners call a road diet.

Experts presented those two options for streets at the second Annual Multi-Modal Transit Summit at the Yale Forestry School’s Kroon Hall Monday afternoon in a session on how to make streets safer.

“There’s some 35 to 40,000 traffic fatalities in total in the United States per year. It’s really a big issue,” said Neil Olinski of Milone and MacBroom. “We want to rein in speeds as much as we can through design.”

Speed significantly increases the risk of serious injury or death, he said. According to his presentation, when a car is driving 20 miles per hour, the risk of death or serious injury from a collision with a pedestrian is 18 percent. At 30 mph, the risk increases to 50 percent, and at 40 mph to 77 percent.

Speed is dangerous not only because of the increased force of impact. It also increases the likelihood of a crash because it takes longer to stop, and because drivers do not notice as much of their periphery at high speeds.

There are a number of ways to slow cars. Roadside elements and roundabouts are one way. Decreasing lane width and the number of lanes, called a “road diet” is another.

Narrower lanes, explained Olinski, prompt cars to drive slower. And when there are fewer lanes, it frees up space for bikes. It also reduces the risk of a multi-threat crash, when a car in one lane stops for a pedestrian, but a car in the adjacent lane does not see the pedestrian until it’s too late.

New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking Director Doug Hausladen said that road diets typically refer to two-way streets where a four-lane road is reduced to three lanes. He said not many roads in New Haven are ready for that type of diet, because there are not many four-lane roads. Large streets like Whalley Avenue, with five lanes, are more complicated.

“It’s ripe for transformation,” he said of Whalley, “but it’s not ripe for a typical four-to-three-lane road diet.”

He said the city is planning a road diet on Union Avenue near Union Station to make more space for pedestrians and to make traffic flow more freely.

Olinski used Church Street to show an example of what a one-way road diet might look like. His graphic would reduce it to two lanes, with a bike lane between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars. That road diet, he said, would only be an interim solution before the road becomes a two-way street.

Read the original article here.

© New Haven Independent, 2019