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During the development process for the Columbus, Indiana Bike and Pedestrian Plan, public input displayed the great extent to which bicycling and walking have evolved from a form of recreation to a means of transportation. Noticeably increasing numbers of residents are biking and walking to work, the downtown, parks and shopping areas. These changes bode well for continuing Columbus’ attractiveness as a city in which to live, play and work.
This changing use also supports the development of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure beyond the concept of People Trails to include a network of facilities serving a variety of users. Modifying Washington and 25th Streets to make them more appropriate for all users should be considered because it would greatly improve the safety and efficiency of our transportation network.
The modification listed in the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, often referred to as a “road diet,” would change the streets from two lanes in both directions to one lane in each direction and a center turn lane. Such a change could make room for bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.
Advance — a Strategic Plan for Columbus lays out a plan to be the safest city of our size in the country by increasing road safety. The goals are to “eliminate road traffic fatalities; reduce road traffic major injuries by 10 percent; and reduce all motor vehicle crashes by 10 percent.” Data has proven that roadways that have been given a “road diet” have experienced a 29 percent reduction in all roadway crashes. (www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/10053/)
How does a reduction in travel lanes also reduce crashes? Though the idea of a personal “diet” isn’t attractive to many people, road diets have multiple safety and operational benefits for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists (safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/fhwa_sa_12_013.htm), such as:
A common misconception is that taking away lanes will cause traffic to build up and your trip to take longer. A&F Engineering conducted a comprehensive traffic simulation and analysis for the engineering department in April to quantify the future traffic impact associated with the road diet proposals for Washington and 25th streets. The study concluded that traffic operation would not be significantly impacted. The intersections would continue to operate well above acceptable levels of service.
As discussed, when appropriate, road diets can improve the safety of a roadway while maintaining its current efficiency at a low cost. Road diets are one of the many tools available to create a bicycle and pedestrian friendly transportation network. We believe that a road diet for Washington and 25th streets will help exceed the safety goals of the city’s Strategic Plan while strengthening the attractiveness of Columbus for businesses and residents alike.
This letter was received Sept. 3 from Laura Garrett of Columbus. Garrett is a community initiatives leader for Healthy Communities and a bicycling advocate.
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