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Dom Nozzi’s Plan B Blog has moved!

I have decided to move my Plan B City & Neighborhood Design blogging each week to Substack. Please follow this link to kindly continue to follow my writing on this topic:

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‘Slow-speed design’ a must for cities

Your Turn in Sunday, The Greenville (SC) News

Dom Nozzi

Guest columnist, September 11, 2022

‘Slow-speed design’ a must for cities

Dangerous, high-speed, inattentive driving is an epidemic. Vehicle collisions with bicyclists and pedestrians have been at unacceptably high levels for decades in Greenville and SC.

Hostile, high-decibel conditions caused by high vehicle speeds lead to costly efforts to buffer homes and businesses from overwide roads. Houses and shops unable to tolerate these roads are abandoned or relocated.

High-speed vehicles are incompatible with a safe, livable community, despite efforts to protect against the speedways.

High-speed roads create a ‘barrier effect’ by making it impossible to bicycle or walk (or take a bus). Consequently, driving grows. Fuel consumption and air pollution rise. Public health declines.

Vehicles require an enormous amount of space. A car takes up so much space that roads become congested with only a modest number of motorists. Because roads are congested so quickly, citizens endlessly demand wider roads.

Growth in the size of roads leads to an inexorable, vicious downward cycle. Bigger roads inevitably lead to a decline in safety and quality of life. This grows the desire to flee the increasingly congested, dangerous, noisy in-town locations for the suburbs. And this leads to a growing demand to widen roads to enable a growing number of cars to travel at high speeds for greater distances.

To escape this spiraling cycle, the path is clear. Slow down vehicle travel.

The good news is that we can keep our cars. But we must be masters of our cars rather than their slaves. We need roads designed to obligate motorists to be better behaved (by driving at more modest, attentive speeds).

Slow-speed design involves reducing horizontal road dimensions. We reduce the width of travel lanes, reduce the number of lanes (road ‘dieting’), use landscaped sidewalk bulb-outs, use modest intersection turning radii, install chicanes (horizontal deflection devices), restore on-street parking, change one-way streets back to two-way, use woonerfs (‘living streets’), and install traffic circles. These tactics reduce car speeds while allowing for emergency response by fire trucks

Undesirable vertical interventions, such as speed humps, must not be used as they impede emergency vehicles, damage cars, and create noise pollution. Also, Greenville must provide travel choices so that folks are not required to make all trips by car. We need more homes mingled with small shops, offices, civic buildings, and pocket parks. This traditional, mixed-use neighborhood design reduces trip distances. Walking, bicycling, and transit become more likely. The short distances mean that streets do not need to be oversized.

Driving becomes optional, not required.

Motorists drive on ‘forgiving streets.’ Designs ‘forgive’ motorists for driving too fast or not paying attention. Forgiving design, predictably, has ironically led to an epidemic of speeding and inattentive driving. Forgiving design must be replaced with lower speed, attentive design, as described above.

Greenville must moderate vehicle speeds by designing roads that are smaller and obligate slower, safer, attentive driving.

Dom Nozzi holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from SUNY Plattsburgh and a master’s degree in town and transportation planning from Florida State University. For 20 years, he served as a senior town and transportation planner for Gainesville Florida, and was briefly the growth rate control planner for Boulder, Colorado. Today, he maintains a consulting practice.

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Permanently Pedestrianize Pearl?

By Dom Nozzi

The Boulder Colorado City Council recently considered permanently closing Pearl Street west of the Mall.

One response to the pandemic on Pearl Street has been to allow retailers to expand into public streets and sidewalks. In the case of Pearl Street west of the Mall, this has included closing the street to cars.

While I largely supported these reforms, I would urge caution. Yes, the idea of reallocating space on Pearl Street to move away from exclusive car use is long overdue and would achieve important benefits. But there are a few likely negative outcomes.

A lot of us “put people before cars” folks will see the idea of closing Pearl to cars beyond Pearl St Mall as irresistibly seductive.

I’m not so sure.

Urban designers know that prohibiting cars on more than a few blocks is almost always fatal to retail unless there is sufficiently compact mixed-use development along the street. Pearl is far less compact than is needed to support more closure.

Another worry: one suggestion is to reallocate space from cars to make Pearl a one-way street. One-way conversion was popular in the 60s and 70s, but we now know they are terrible for a town center – particularly for retail. A growing number of one-ways are therefore being converted back to two-way.

Even with a pandemic crisis, it is politically difficult to close streets to cars.

Fortunately, there is a Third Way.

A compromise that would offer enormous benefits, be relatively feasible politically, promote retail health, retain fire truck access, and enhance public health (from both added social distancing space and boosting the amount of walking and bicycling) is a “woonerf.”

I believe the woonerf is a “Third Way” design. It creates a low-speed street design on Pearl – a “living street” safely shared by cars, pedestrians and cyclists (Google “woonerf,” or go to Woonerfs can be installed quickly, relatively cheaply, and temporarily if they do not work out.

Some people call such design “give-way” streets, where the two-way street is so narrow that the motorist must “give-way” to an on-coming car.

Low-speed design would allow two-way car travel to continue on Pearl, but would obligate motorists to drive very slowly (say, 10-15 mph) and very attentively. So much so that even children and seniors would be safe and happy to sit in the street or walk or bicycle in the street.

I recommend the woonerf treatment for Pearl west of the Mall to 9th Street and east of the Mall to, say, 19th Street.

How is a low-speed two-way street created? On Pearl, it would mean the removal of the awful design decision of a continuous left-turn (suicide) lane in the middle of the street. That alone allows ample space reallocation.

Second, shrink the width of the travel lanes to, say, 9 feet each. Also shrink the height of signs and street lights to create a “low-speed ambiance.” Add street furniture, and plenty of new green tree, shrub and flower landscaping in elevated “planter” boxes to the street (exactly the way it was done on Pearl St Mall, by the way).

Woonerfs typically eliminate curbs and elevated sidewalks to signal that the street is slow-speed and shared between cars, cyclists, and walkers. By doing each of these things, we would create an extremely safe, happy, vibrant Pearl Street that prioritizes people (cyclists, peds, seniors, and children) over cars without eliminating cars.

Cars, as is the case in Dutch woonerfs, are able to remain but they are obligated by the street design to be very slow speed and safely attentive. Retail and restaurant businesses would flourish with the big increase in space, and the much slower speeds by motorists (who, because they are driving more slowly, are more likely to stop and be customers).

The new street design would lead to a jump in the number of pedestrians and cyclists on Pearl Street who were previously too worried to walk or bike there due to the pro-car design. By allowing slow-speed cars, a woonerf allows a city with insufficient compactness to deliver sufficient customers to businesses along the street.

So yes! Let’s reallocate space on Pearl so that it is pro-people rather than pro-car. But let’s do it right, and avoid the mistakes of the past.

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Widening a Road to Solve Congestion is Like Loosening Your Belt to Solve Obesity

By Dom Nozzi

Greenville is not “overcrowded.”  

There are not too many people. There are too many people in cars.

For there to be less “crowding,” we need more compact land use patterns. Counterintuitive, but true nevertheless.

True because the most important reason why most believe a community has become “too crowded” is that motor vehicles consume an enormous amount of space. Higher levels of per capita motor vehicle travel – levels that are highest when land use patterns are dispersed and low-density – are the primary cause of high levels of motor vehicle travel.

Compactness gives us better quality of life, less motor vehicle dependence, more transit use, more walking, more bicycling, more safety, better public health, better financial health for Greenville (and its small shops and its families), less air pollution, less car-crash deaths, and less climate change. Conversely, car-oriented development is a bankrupting Ponzi Scheme, because car-oriented development seems to produce attractive tax revenue up front, but actually fails to pay its own way, which bankrupts communities in the long run.

Oversizing for cars leads to a Greenville that is losing its desired “small town feel.”

Greenville has too much open space (most of us incorrectly think the reverse). We have excess open space because we over-allocate space for motor vehicles. Space for oversized roads, oversized parking, and oversized building setbacks needs to be replaced with buildings for a more human-scaled community. Two important ingredients for Greenville to be healthy: “agglomeration economies” (ie, clustered compactness), and slower speed vehicle travel. Indeed, there is a worldwide effort to create “slower-speed cities.”

Greensville needs to reduce excessive town center noise pollution to better promote compact development. Sirens are overused. We need emergency vehicle agencies (police, fire, medical) and trains to significantly reduce their siren use and decibels. There are several ways to reduce siren noise without compromising public safety. Greenville also suffers from an abundance of loud mufflers.

We can lower noise and improve safety by designing our streets to obligate motorists to drive slower and attentively. A healthy town center has no streets larger than three lanes, and almost never uses turn lanes. I count 14 oversized Greenville downtown roads over that size that need a road diet (removing excess lanes). Slower speeds also happen with priced on-street parking, and Greenville needs a lot more of that parking.

Greenville’s Main Street – formerly suffering abandonment, crime, and speeding – experienced the best restoration in the nation when it was road dieted. The diet for Main – what many call the pride of Greenville — makes Main a place that attracts people and brings prosperity due to human-scaled, slower-speed, community-building charm. There’s no reason we could not apply the same restorative medicine to the other 14 oversized roads. The first step? Take ownership of those roads from the South Carolina DOT.

A similar (and enormous) success: replacing the four-lane bridge at Falls Park with a pedestrian walkway.

It is untrue that a growing Greenville requires wider roads. Widening has failed worldwide to “solve” congestion for a century. Instead, congestion becomes worse – at great public expense.

Best congestion response? As the Beatles would say, let it be.

Congestion delivers many benefits if we don’t widen: less “low-value” car trips (such as driving at rush hour for a cup of coffee), more travel by transit, walking, and bicycling, more health for small shops, more financially healthy governments, more affordability for households, less air pollution, more compact development, less sprawl, and less deaths from vehicle crashes.

Congestion does not keep worsening if we let it be. By paying a “time tax,” travelers use roads more efficiently (less low-value motor vehicle trips, for example, and less rush hour trips). People also take alternative routes, drive at alternative times, live closer to destinations, or use transit, or walk, or bicycle.

That is, congestion self-regulates. If we let it be.

Congestion is inevitable because, like Soviet-styled economics, motorists don’t pay their own way – the gas tax is too low, roads are not tolled, and parking is underpriced). Congestion, as basic economics shows, is inevitable when you underprice something (such are road space). The Soviet Union failed because it ignored this. The result: long bread lines. In Greenville, the result is congested roads and overcrowded parking. Ironic that nearly all of us rightly oppose Soviet economics except for roads and parking lots.

Because motor vehicles consume so much space, it only takes a few motor vehicles to create congestion. Therefore, any city worth its salt has congestion. Instead of widening, we must create alternatives to inevitable congestion. Three examples: a congestion fee, making it easier and safer to walk, bicycle or use transit, and leveraging proximity with mixed-use infill development.

Consider what Greenville and South Carolina could do if, instead of spending millions of public dollars to worsen congestion, air quality, finances, and quality of life by widening roads, they opted for road diets. Taxes would stop rapidly increasing (or decrease!), and a lot of new money would be available for quality-of-life improvements such as sidewalks, bike paths, street trees, parks, and world-class transit – to name just a few items in dire need of public money.

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What Do I Think of the High Ratings for Vancouver?

By Dom Nozzi

Someone read one of my blogs about my ratings for the best cities in the world. He then asked me the following: “How would you rate Vancouver? Would it potentially make it on your best-ever list in the future? And what do you think is the reason why it seems to get so much amazing press? From a cursory Google Images search, the downtown looks to me like a whole lot of nondescript glass towers.”

I responded by noting that I’ve long been intrigued by Vancouver, as the city is often ranked quite high as a quality city, which led me to be eager to visit to see for myself.

When I visited, I was disappointed.

The city has a lot of rather tall, intimidating glass and modernist towers. I did not find much at all in the way of charming walkability or human scale.

It was easy to see that as noted by reports, the city has quite a bit of town center housing, which surely must be good news for town center retailers (and, perhaps, a good amount of town center walking).

But what Vancouver illustrates to me is, in my experience, almost an iron law of cities or neighborhoods: The older the city or neighborhood, the more human-scaled and charming and walkable and romantic it is. The newer the city or neighborhood, the less one finds those elements.

This illustrates that our generation is failing to leave a quality legacy for future generations (in terms of the places we build). I believe this is largely due to two things that emerged in the 20th Century: the Modernist design paradigm for buildings, and our car-dependent society.

Because cars consume so much space, it has become nearly impossible to create human-scaled, charming places anymore, as cars don’t allow us to do that. Design for motor vehicles is utterly incompatible with design for charm.

It is a tragic dilemma.

Does Vancouver have the ability to make my best-ever list of cities in the future? I believe that because we have built so many modernist, car-happy (i.e., unlovable and unwalkable) places, most all cities in North America will become unaffordable to maintain. The newer cities will be so disliked that we will set about engaging in a lot of demolition – in response to our dislike — and (hopefully) we will have by then regained our senses enough to rebuild such places in a timeless way. In other words, places that are human-scaled and charmingly traditional. Design that we employed for much of civilized history up to the 1940s.

I fear that such a day is a long way off, however. A great deal of economic misery will be required to motivate us in that transformation and restoration.

In sum, I don’t expect Vancouver to make my best-ever city list in my lifetime.

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Improving the Performance of the Augusta Street Road Diet in Greenville SC

By Dom Nozzi

Greenville SC – where I now live – has admirably installed a road diet on Augusta Street. Reducing that road from four lanes to three.

It is important that the City conducts a “before” and “after” study on the road diet impacts because it will be almost certain to show:

1.       A significant drop in motor vehicle crashes, along with a drop in injuries and deaths in this section;

2.       An increase in property values for properties along the road-dieted section – particularly for residential properties;

3.       An increase in property tax revenue going to local government resulting from the increased property values;

4.       An increase in people walking, bicycling, and using transit;

5.       A reduction in motor vehicle speeding and dangerous changes in lanes by motorists;

6.       No significant change in motorist travel time in this section.

Intangibles that we cannot measure with much precision but are almost certainly happening:

1.       A reduction in noise pollution along this section;

2.       Motorists, bicyclists, walkers, the handicapped, and transit users feeling less stress (and more happy civic pride), and noticing more homes and businesses along this section;

3.       Bicyclists and walkers more often encountering friends (and making new friends) along this section;

4.       A reduction in road rage;

5.       The aesthetics of this section improving.

This could be a nice project for a student at a local college.

By the way, this section can be improved in how successfully it performs by doing the following as soon as possible:

1.       Reduce the height of signs, street lights, and signal lights (post-mounted signals are ideal for this) along the street. Creating this more human-scaled dimensioning would make the street look better and further slow down cars;

2.       Reduce the turning radius at driveway and street intersections. This would reduce crossing distance for walkers (to improve safety and convenience); reduce turning speeds by motorists, and increase motorist attentiveness;

3.       Reduce the width of the turning lane. Conventional engineers are notorious for creating excessive turn lane widths, and they have done it again on this section. Note: Engineers will claim the excessive width is necessary. Nonsense. It is a motorist convenience measure. Motorists SHOULD be somewhat inconvenienced in this town center location. Excessive width increases motorist speeding and inattentiveness, and reduces safety for crossing walkers and handicapped. As an aside, through lanes in this section might also benefit from being narrowed (I do not know their width);

4.       To dramatically improve safety and aesthetics, this section should convert a continuous left-turn configuration to left-turn pockets interspersed with raised and either landscaped or brick (the lower-maintenance option) medians.

One last thing: I have not looked for this yet, but if there are any instances along the road-dieted section that exceed three lanes (i.e., more than one turn lane is present) the second/third turn lane should be removed. No roads in the town center should exceed three lanes for a large number of reasons. I have noticed that there are, for example, an excessive number of lanes on North Main Street north of Elford St.

Not making the above corrections means that we reduce the visible success of the road diet. That, of course, is a tactical mistake. We need to maximize the benefits of road diets to increase the political will to achieve the many more road diets we desperately need on several oversized roads in the town center.

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Noise Pollution in Greenville South Carolina

By Dom Nozzi

Noise pollution is one of the very few forms of pollution where our society is not only failing to make progress, but is actually losing ground.

While loud vehicles with loud stereo systems are an important source of noise problems, it is a relatively difficult problem to solve, and is actually causing far less noise pollution than public service vehicle siren noise pollution — a form of pollution that the City and County have direct control over (and can solve without spending taxpayer money).

The big noise offenders in Greenville are the police, fire, and ambulance vehicles (as well as the Amtrak train). The drivers are way over-using their sirens — particularly from midnight to 6 am.

There are cities that have effectively adopted policies that dramatically reduce excessive service vehicle siren use.

The City and County need to join them.

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Using User Fees to Correct Transportation Problems

By Dom Nozzi

The local Greenville SC newspaper recently published an op-ed I wrote describing the benefits of transportation user fees. A reader kindly sent me a note to largely agree with my essay.

I pointed out to him that transportation user fees are, by far, much more fair than indirect methods such as property tax or sales tax.

It is certainly true that road and parking fees would be extremely difficult to implement due to severe public opposition. You mention options such as vehicle registration fees, annual vehicle license renewal fees or vehicle personal property taxes.

While those would be easier to put in place politically, they would be highly unfair to those who engage in less (or no) driving. For user fees to work well (i.e., to reduce problems such as congestion), the fee must accurately and fairly go up or down based on how much we use roads and parking with our motor vehicle. For both a property tax and a sales tax, the amount paid would not vary based on how many miles a person drives, or how often a person parks, or whether they are driving and parking at rush hour or not.

It is much better for society and efficiency for people to be encouraged to not drive or park as much during rush hours. We do that by charging more during rush hour.

While in the past it was a difficult “headache” to charge people road tolls or parking tolls, it has now become much lower in cost and much more fair and accurate. Why? Because we can now use affordable digital technology to remotely assess such user fees. No need for things like toll booths or metal-pole parking meters. Of course, the technology does not do much to overcome the problem of political opposition.

Speaking as someone who has never owned a car, I find it extremely unfair that I must pay higher property taxes or sales taxes (and higher overall prices above and beyond taxes for goods and services I buy) to pay for motor vehicle road and parking infrastructure.

I’m pessimistic that our society will fairly charge transportation user fees in my lifetime. It is too difficult to find the political will to charge the user fees I recommend above (which are highly fair as people pay a higher or lower fee precisely based on how much or how little of the transportation system they use). It is so much easier, politically, to charge everyone the same amount (through property taxes or sales taxes or registration fees).

We will always prefer a payment system that is socialistic when it comes to transportation: Everyone pays the same regardless of how much or how little they use our system. It is a recipe for severe resentment, and a recipe for ongoing congestion and bankruptcy at all levels of government (and higher taxes for households). The Soviet system failed when they tried this (consider the notorious, persistent bread lines in the Soviet Union – a communist version of congested roadways). Why do we think we won’t fail as well? We can only escape the Soviet failure by charging people based on how much or how little they use our transportation system.

If I walk or bicycle or use transit to make all my trips, why should I pay the same amount for societal transportation as someone who makes 14 car trips per day (which is the average number of trips by an American)?

Again, socialism fails with transportation in the same way it fails for bread.

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Improving Streets in Greenville SC

By Dom Nozzi

Butler Avenue from Pete Hollis Boulevard to Washington Street creates a number of significant negative impacts for the many homes that are near it, as well as those seeking to walk or bicycle along Butler. The primary problems are dangerous motor vehicle travel and extreme levels of noise pollution [see below for details about the health impacts of noise]. These problems are primarily caused by excessive motor vehicle speeds, excessive curb-to-curb highway design, and emergency vehicle sirens.

The three most effective tools for correcting these problems include:

  1. Sirens. The City should request that the County not use Butler as a primary route for emergency medical vehicles. The daily number of such vehicles is excessive, and the siren volume is ear-splitting. Alternative and likely faster routes such as the non-residential Academy Street are far more appropriate for such vehicles.
  2. USPS. The US Postal Service facility at Washington and Hudson streets has chosen to use Butler and Asbury to route a convoy of mail delivery vans twice a day to and from their facility. The vans are loud and often exceed the speed limit. The City should request that the USPS use the non-residential Washington and Hudson streets to route its vans to and from its facility, rather than residential Butler and Asbury.
  3. Credit Union Drive-Through. The four-lane drive-through for the Credit Union at Butler and Asbury funnels a large volume of motor vehicles onto Butler and Asbury day and night. These vehicles often exceed the speed limit, which is particularly dangerous because drivers are often distracted by filling out deposit or withdrawal slips while driving to the drive-through. The City should request that the Greenville Heritage Federal Credit Union reconfigure its drive-through so that vehicles enter and exit the drive-through from Washington rather than Butler and Asbury. This can be done quickly and inexpensively.
  4. On-Street Parking. On-street parking must be installed on both sides of Butler for nearly all of the distance from Pete Hollis to Washington. This is an exceptionally low-cost and quick way to significantly slow traffic to the lower speeds appropriate for a residential street. On-street parking does this by substantially reducing the width of Butler, and adding “friction” to the drive. On-street parking also reduces the need for excessive, undesirable off-street parking lots and spaces. Should the demand for on-street parking be too low to have at least 75 to 80 percent use of on-street parking spaces throughout the day and night, landscaped bulb-outs need to be installed to frame on-street parking spaces and permanently maintain the needed narrowed width of Butler even when on-street parking is not occurring. Because Butler is more narrow north from Asbury, there may not be sufficient width for both on-street parking and an in-street bike lane. Should there only be room for one of these features, the City should preference the installation of on-street parking on the more narrow sections of Butler.
  5. Raised, Landscaped Islands and Trees. Butler from approximately Asbury to Washington lacks the raised, landscaped islands found on Butler north from Asbury. This creates an excessively wide expanse of curb-to-curb asphalt from Asbury to Washington. This open, highway-like design from Asbury to Washington signals to motorists that they can safely drive at excessive, inattentive speeds (which, indeed, is precisely what happens). This problem can effectively be corrected not only with on-street parking, but also the installation of raised, tree-landscaped center islands on Butler south of Asbury (and several other low-speed geometry designs). Installing large canopy street trees on Butler is important not only for slowing vehicles, but also for beautifying an ugly street, and cooling a hot section of Butler. Equally important is the need to reduce the curb-to-curb distance on Butler south of Asbury by narrowing the travel lanes and turn lane, and shortening the length of the left-turn lane (I’m sure the overly long turn lane was installed due to lengthy queuing lines of left-turning vehicles, but sacrificing public safety and quality of life is in no sense justified simply to promote motorist convenience – particularly in this urbanized residential town center location).
  6. City Assumption of Ownership. The City needs to at some point assume ownership of Butler from the South Carolina DOT. Not doing so severely restricts the use of effective design tools for improving Butler to properly serve as the residential street it has evolved into.
  7. Turn Lanes. The double left turn lanes at Butler and Pete Hollis need to be replaced by a single left turn lane, as the double left is an inappropriate highway-oriented design that belongs in drivable suburbs rather than an urbanized location (I recognize that one of those two lanes is a dual left turn and straight ahead lane). Double left turns drastically increase motor vehicle speeds and inattentiveness. These problems and the significantly increased crossing distance the left turn lane provides create extremely dangerous conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians. The double left also significantly increases motor vehicle traffic volumes on Butler. Similarly, the right turn slip lane at Butler and Washington needs to be removed for the same reasons as noted above for the double left turn. Both the Butler intersection at Pete Hollis and at Washington are vastly oversized and must be necked down to reduce the crosswalk distance. Further amplifying this problem is the highway-oriented, high-speed, oversized turning radii found at both of these intersections, which not only increase the crossing distance but promote dangerously high-speed, inattentive turning movements by vehicles. These turning radii (and those for several driveways serving Butler) need to be reduced in size for safety because the high-speed geometries they employ are exceptionally dangerous. The left-turn lanes and oversized turning radii are extremely dangerous – they are particularly daunting for seniors, mothers with strollers, and children. Finally, on the topic of crosswalks, textured crosswalks such as brick have been shown to send a more visible, attractive, tactile, and audible message to motorists that they need to slow down for crosswalks.
  8. In-Street Bike Lanes. Butler serves as an important bicycling route and is capable of attracting significantly higher levels of bicycling. If installed between on-street parking and the travel lane, bike lanes should be colorized to provide an enhanced visual signal to motorists that they are driving on a more narrow, slower-speed street. Installing a bike lane between on-street parking and the curb creates “protected” bike lanes that are more inviting to less confident bicyclists (such as children and seniors). This “protected” design also provides the benefit of further slowing cars on Butler, as on-street parked vehicles will extend out further from the curb.

Note that on-street parking and raised landscaped islands on Butler are effective in reducing neighborhood noise pollution, because the lower motor vehicle speeds induced by these tools effectively reduce noise pollution.

Why Is Noise Pollution a Serious Public Health Concern?

The professional literature shows a clear connection between noise pollution and a number of medical and societal maladies such as high blood pressure, heart disease, mental illness, depression, inability to engage in conversation, foul mood, fatigue, loss of sleep, anger, poor concentration, productivity losses at the workplace, cognitive impairment, tinnitus, hearing loss, and failed relationships.

Creating Meaningful Pedestrian Safety on Stone Avenue

In response to a Greenville newspaper article discussing efforts to promote pedestrian safety on Stone Avenue, I posted the following:

Is the City serious about improved safety on Stone? The City will show it is not serious if it opts for what all cities have tried for the past century to “improve” safety. For the past century, all cities have opted for the same ineffective tactics that have suffered from extreme diminishing returns for several decades. I call them the “Five Warnings”: More Warning Lights, More Warning Paint, More Warning Signs, More Warning Education, and More Warning Enforcement. Stone Avenue will remain a car-only death trap — particularly for seniors, children, bicyclists, pedestrians, and the handicapped — unless the City assumes ownership of Stone from SCDOT and installs a road diet. Going from 4 or 5 lanes to three is a no-brainer. Dover-Kohl consultants had previously called for a road diet, and SCDOT rejected it. A road diet will quickly and cost-effectively result in (1) significant improvements for homes along and near Stone, (2) significant improvements for smaller retail shops along Stone, (3) significant improvements for cycling and walking along and across Stone, (4) significant improvements for children and seniors and the disabled using Stone, (5) a significant drop in crashes on Stone, and (6) a big drop in City maintenance costs (read: lower taxes). Important note: Going from 4 lanes to 3 does not reduce road capacity, despite the conventional wisdom.

My Credentials

I have 40 years of academic and professional experience in the field of transportation. I am a lifetime bicycle, walking, and transit commuter. I have a Master’s degree in town and transportation planning. I have been a bicycle commuter in nine cities. I was the lead planner for the Gainesville FL greenway transportation system. I was a member and Vice Chair of the Design Team for the Gainesville FL Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization. I wrote several land development regulations to preserve and enhance the livability of neighborhoods, including the Gainesville noise control ordinance. I have a high level of professional expertise in traffic calming, pedestrian design, and traffic safety. I have professional expertise in increasing the number of bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users. I wrote the long-range transportation plan for Gainesville. I served on the Board of Directors for Bike/Walk Virginia. I was a member of the Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals. I am a nationally certified Complete Streets Instructor, which allowed me to co-host workshops throughout the nation. I have delivered 93 public speeches pertaining to transportation in cities throughout the nation. I have published two books on the topic of transportation. I served on the Boulder CO Transportation Advisory Board as well as the Asheville NC Bikes Policy Committee. I currently serve on the Bike Walk Greenville Board of Directors.

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Traffic Calming in Greenville SC

By Dom Nozzi

Regarding speed humps…

I am possibly the biggest advocate in South Carolina for using traffic calming devices on streets, as I believe slowing cars is one of the most important things we can do in cities for better safety, quality of life, reduction in low-value motor vehicle trips, and noise reduction.

Speed humps, however, are an exceptionally problematic tool for slowing cars. On the list of bad ideas for slowing cars, speed limit signs are at top of the list for being the worst. Stop signs are about as bad. And humps are #3 for being a bad tool.

Here is why humps are a bad idea:

They punish motorists even if the motorist is driving fairly slowly.

They can damage vehicles.

They create noise pollution for neighborhoods.

They create problems for emergency response vehicles.

They are annoying for cyclists.

When spaced improperly, they promote “jackrabbit” driving (ie, frequent slowing and speeding between humps).

An important reason why many cities such as Greenville use (or overuse) humps so often (there are way too many humps in Greenville) is that they are very quick and low-cost to install. Which makes them an easy way for elected officials to satisfy neighbors concerned about speeding vehicles.

However, the best way, by far, to slow motor vehicles is not to use “vertical” interventions such as humps, but to use “horizontal” interventions. Examples of horizontal interventions include:

1.       Road diets, where excessive street lanes are removed. The most common diet is going from 4 lanes to 3.

2.       Landscaped or hard-surface bulb-outs (usually used to frame on-street parking or create a mid-block pedestrian crossing). Many bulb-outs are admirably used on Greenville’s Main Street. Ideally, this “pinching down” the width of the street creates a one-lane-wide pinch point that obligates motorists to “give-way” when a motor vehicle approaches in the opposing direction.

3.       Chicanes, which are a form of bulb-out that obligates motorists to move in a slower, weaving, more attentive pattern.

4.       Traffic circles and roundabouts.

5.       Installing on-street parking on streets without such parking. Again, this narrowing of street width works best when a “give-way” street is created.

6.       Installing formally-aligned street trees abutting the street to create a sense of enclosure and human scale.

Each of these horizontal interventions is much more conducive to bicycling and emergency response vehicles than vertical interventions such as humps. They are also much better at creating a safe environment for walking. As well as created the much-needed human scale and sense of place that is lost when we oversize streets and intersections.

On my list of top priorities for Greenville to become a better city, traffic calming is near the top of the list. But calming needs, again, to be achieved with horizontal rather than vertical interventions.

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