Natural Traffic Calming
In the New York Times Maura Casey writes about a tree in the middle of the road in her Connecticut town:
“Sometime, decades ago, town officials decided to pave around the tree instead of cutting it down for the convenience of cars despite the fact that it probably made more sense to remove it while widening the road. But it was a perfectly good tree, and someone argued, successfully, that it be left alone. In a world with little tolerance for eccentricity, it is hard to imagine that decision being made today.”
There’s absolutely no reason residential streets, like the one pictured above, shouldn’t have trees in the middle of the road. Apart from the aesthetic contribution, they’re great natural traffic calming devices. Yes, you have to slow down to navigate around them, yes they reduce the “sight distance” of whatever lays beyond (hence you have to slow down), and yes they are a crash “hazard” — if you act in a hazardous way.
Unfortunately, in too many places in America, someone would come along at a speed they shouldn’t be going — or maybe they’re otherwise “impaired” — and they smack into the tree, fatally or otherwise. The town, worried about safety and lawsuits, etc., calls for “improvements” to be made to the street — beginning with cutting down the offending tree as a “safety measure.” Of course, on the new widened, standardized road, speeds will thus increase, shifting the hazard from the drivers of cars to the residents of the neighborhood themselves. Idiot-proofed streets tend to breed idiotic behavior.
Those neighbors, grown tired of cars whizzing down their streets, may even turn to their own solution, as a group of residents in Seattle did (thanks to James Callan for the tip) when they bought speed bumps at Costco and installed them on their own streets in an effort to stop people from driving at speeds approaching 50 mph. This didn’t sit well with the Seattle DOT, who had the non-complying, offending devices removed. The kicker comes in the final line: “The city has already allocated $15,000 to the neighborhood, which can be used for traffic signs.”
Signs, as any number of studies have shown, are essentially useless at slowing drivers. That $15,000 would be better spent on a planting a tree or two — in the middle of the road.
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 17th, 2008 at 10:13 am and is filed under Drivers, Traffic Engineering, Traffic Signs, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.