Bringing traffic to a crawl doesn’t make things safer when speeding isn’t the problem. And Speeding Most Likely Isn’t The Problem.
The Road Diet Fallacy
More accidents, more pollution, more gridlock, heavy traffic on neighborhood streets, and decimated business districts. That’s what road diets do when they’re done wrong.
Yet more and more city leaders are being lured by “free” money from the Federal and State Governments for adopting “Living Streets” or “Complete Streets” standards. These cities are duped by special interest groups and developers who hope to benefit by slowing traffic to a crawl. Armed with glossy presentations and promises of “revitalization,” road diet proponents use manipulated or outright false data and misapplied studies to convince decision makers that their streets create a “safety crisis” and that removing car lanes is the only solution.
In reality, road diets don’t prevent most of the kinds of accidents occurring on major streets. In fact, on high volume arterial boulevards, accident rates often rise post road diet. This is why studies and standards say road diets should not be used on high volume streets. Traffic jams, Emergency Responders get stuck, air quality worsens, and local business shutter because customers and deliveries can no longer get through.
“Until emergency responders are consulted before urban design changes take effect, the threat to public safety will only get worse. If you have a bad day in our business, people die.” - Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman
What causes accidents on city streets? It’s most often:
• Distracted driving
• Cycling on the wrong side of the road
• Walking, cycling or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• Poor lighting
None of these things can be prevented by road diets. In fact, accidents rates often rise when a road diet is installed on main roads.
This chart was created using the Berkeley TIMS tool and used data from the CHP SWITRS database. It shows the violations cited in all accidents that resulted in the death of a pedestrian or cyclist in the city of Los Angeles in 2017.
The data clearly shows that “Pedestrian Violations: are by far leading the factor in these fatal accidents, accounting for 56% of the total.
Every accident that claims a life is a tragedy and all are heart breaking. But the truth is the majority of them would not have been prevented by a road diet.
To the activists pushing road diets every problem is a speeding driver and every solution is a road diet. “Unsafe Speed" was cited as a factor in just 4% of these accidents. A road diet won't make a road “safer" when only 5 out of the 115 pedestrian and 16 cyclist deaths that occurred across the entire city of Los Angeles are due to speeding. Road Diets are not a safety “Silver Bullet" that magically cure all ills and prevent future accidents from ever happening.