Tag Archives: education

Another Example of Boulder CO Being Behind the Times on Transportation

By Dom Nozzi

August 15, 2017

On July 20, 2017, the Boulder Police Department reported that they will step up enforcement and steep fines for pedestrians who do not activate warning lights when crossing the street. This is a form of victim-blaming akin to fining a rape victim for wearing provocative clothing. Why is the Boulder Police Department not stepping up enforcement of serious threats to public safety such as motorist speeding, motorist drunk driving, or motorist texting?texting

I believe the two most important issues that a community must address when it comes to community planning are the related topics of urban design and transportation.

Tragically, most citizens in Boulder CO are about 20 years behind the times when it comes to urban design. The above pedestrian enforcement issue is one of many examples of how most citizens in Boulder are about 50 years behind the times when it comes to transportation planning.


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Filed under Transportation, Walking

Boulder, Colorado Traffic Safety is Ineffective and Behind the Times


By Dom Nozzi

October 11, 2016

Every few years for about 80 years, Boulder and pretty much every other city in the US “redoubles its efforts” to engage in more education and enforcement to promote bicycle and pedestrian safety.

At best, such efforts have had marginal benefits.

After 80 years of “redoubling our efforts,” Boulder’s streets are more dangerous than ever.

In my view, these endlessly repeated campaigns are largely a waste of time and money (except to show symbolic support for political reasons), and the very minor benefits diminish each time we implement these campaigns (the dilemma of diminishing 3556802_origreturns). Indeed, such ineffective and repeated campaigns may be worse than a waste of time, as they can distract the City from engaging in pursuing meaningful strategies. Strategies such as retrofitting streets for slower and more attentive car travel, reducing the size of roads and parking lots, significantly increasing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians by removing motorist subsidies and making community development more compact.

Nothing else comes remotely close to being as effective as these tactics in increasing motorist attentiveness, slowing down motorists, and growing the number of bicyclists and pedestrians. I am ashamed of how much Boulder has delayed doing these things – particularly in the face of the many recent traffic fatalities and the plateauing of the levels of bicycling, walking, and transit use.

If it were up to me, Boulder would forego a number of expensive, big-ticket “safety” projects in the pipeline right now (which I believe do almost nothing to improve safety) and divert that money to effective tactics I mention above.

And start doing that immediately.

Shame on Boulder for dragging its feet and being so far behind the times regarding redesigning our streets effectively. Shame on Boulder for thinking it can just give up on trying to calm larger roads and monster intersections. For thinking that it is a good idea to create an alternative (“separate but equal”?) off-street path system for cyclists – a system that will never allow commuter cyclists to reach more than a tiny fraction of destinations cyclists have a right to get to by bike.


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Filed under Bicycling, Road Diet, Transportation, Walking

Traffic Safety in Boulder

By Dom Nozzi

As a member of the Boulder Transportation Advisory Board, I am alarmed  by the recent uptick in serious injuries and deaths caused by vehicle crashes on roads in our area. I am ashamed that our community seems poised to respond with the same old song and dance.

Three factors are primarily responsible for enormous traffic safety problems that persist in Boulder.bike-car-crash1

First, roadways and intersections have grown enormous in size in Boulder. Roads such as Arapahoe, Canyon, Colorado, 28th Street, and Baseline now have such a large number of travel lanes and turn lanes that pedestrians and bicyclists must now cross a huge distance made more daunting by the high speed car traffic on these roads. Anything more than 3 or 4 lanes is extremely dangerous to cross, and these roadways now contain up to 7 or 8 lanes. This oversizing has been driven by an effort to promote “free-flowing” traffic – even at rush hour. Given the enormous size of cars (a person consumes 17 to 100 times more space in a car than in a chair), and the large number of regional commuters coming to Boulder each day, retaining “free-flowing” traffic — even at rush hour — is a recipe for finding yourself oversizing streets and intersections. Boulder has certainly done that. By doing so, Boulder now has a number of oversized roads that are too big for a city, too big for safe bicycling or walking, and too big to have any reasonable chance to achieve an emerging plan of “vision zero” for crashes (reducing the number of traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero). To put the oversizing problem in perspective, if we want to carry 50,000 people per hour in each direction of a road, we’d need one lane worth of road if they are carried by train, two lanes if carried by bus, and 18 lanes if carried by car.

Second, it is important to note that at the dawn of the auto age a century ago, nearly all American cities – including Boulder — adopted forgiving roadway design. Forgiving design “forgives” a motorist for driving too fast or not paying attention by increasing the width of travel lanes, adding travel lanes, and removing “obstacles” from the areas flanking roads (trees, buildings, etc.). The naïve thought was that this would reduce the number of things motorists would crash into.

The unintended consequence, however, was that this design significantly increased motorist speeding and inattentiveness, as a motorist tends to drive as fast and as inattentively as the roadway design allows. The result of forgiving design is that there is an epidemic in motorist speeding and inattentiveness – aggravated by the concurrent epidemic in sleep deprivation that causes most all of us to occasionally fall asleep at the wheel.

Third, for 100 years, nearly all US cities — every few years — have “renewed their efforts” to improve traffic safety. We “redouble our work” to institute the “Five Warnings:”

Warning signs are installed. Warning lights are erected. Warning paint is painted. Warning education is introduced. Warning enforcement is pushed.

After all those campaigns over the past century have been waged, what has been the result? We have, today, the most dangerous streets we have ever had. Clearly, the Five Warnings have been ineffective.

For several decades, we have been so successful in providing for fast, unobstructed travel by car that it has substantially undermined transit ridership, walking, and bicycling. “Danger” is an all-too-frequent reason given in surveys for not bicycling, for example.

Wide travel lanes and multi-lane roads exert a nearly irresistible influence over a motorist. Even motorists who are not inclined to drive fast creep up to highway speeds. Amplifying this problem: large numbers of drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers, sleep-deprived drivers, and time-starved drivers. These factors are a dangerous mix, as they induce a great deal of high-speed, inattentive, reckless driving.

As noted above, making a street “safer” too often increases vehicle speeds, which makes the streets less safe – particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. One result: a disproportionate number of serious injuries and deaths in Boulder are suffered by pedestrians and bicyclists. About 40 percent of all children killed in motor vehicle crashes nationally are killed while walking or riding a bicycle.

Measured by “years of life lost,” motor vehicles fatalities rank third.

Since 1930, over 30,000 Americans die in motor vehicle crashes annually.

This is appalling. And should be completely unacceptable to any civilized society.

The Importance of Traffic Calming

One of the most common requests by citizens to our Board is the need to reinstate the neighborhood traffic calming program that was defunded in the early 2000s. Speeding, cut-through vehicles are a serious problem for many neighborhoods. Such traffic discourages bicycling and walking, substantially increases noise pollution, endangers our most vulnerable (seniors, children, the handicapped, and pets), is a primary cause of loss of neighborhood quality of life, and fuels opposition to infill development.

Traffic calming, which is a street design that obligates motorists to drive more slowly and attentively, has been shown to dramatically improve street safety. Desirable design examples include traffic circles or roundabouts, curb “bulbouts” (which reduce the width of the street), and removal of travel lanes or turn lanes. Roadway geometry in safety-sensitive areas, such as schools, needs to keep speeds near 20 miles per hour. Traffic circles reduce crashes by 50 to 90 percent, compared to two-way and four-way stop signs and traffic signals, by slowing cars and reducing the number of conflict points.

Note that in general, “horizontal calming interventions” such as circles and neck-downs are more desirable than “vertical calming interventions” such as speed humps. Among other things, humps cause noise pollution problems and can dangerously impede fire truck and other emergency vehicle response times.

Motorists are more likely to collide with pedestrians at higher speeds. At 60 miles per hour, the field of vision of the motorist is two-thirds less than at 30 miles per hour. In addition, the probability of a pedestrian being killed is only 3.5 percent when a vehicle is traveling at 15 miles per hour, but jumps to 37 percent at 31 miles per hour and 83 percent at 44 miles per hour.

Despite the conventional wisdom, stop signs do not affect overall speeds or control speeding. Posting lower speed limits and enforcing them is not sufficient to achieve needed reductions in speeding. Modest physical reconfiguration of streets is the only reliable and cost-effective way to slow and control inattentive speeding.

Calming helps reduce neighborhood noise pollution. Higher speeds substantially increase noise pollution.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) notes that the importance of reducing traffic speed cannot be overemphasized, and has stated that traffic calming is one of the more cost-effective ways to promote pedestrian and bicycle use in urban and suburban areas, where walking and bicycling are often hazardous and uncomfortable. And as for children, Stina Sandels, a world authority on children and road accidents, says that the best road safety education cannot adapt a child to modern traffic, so traffic must be adapted to the child.

Fortunately, there are effective street design tactics to substantially increase road safety, and these methods can be deployed without significantly slowing emergency vehicle response times.

I urge Council to restore funding for neighborhood traffic calming. Since the City does not have the authority to introduce safe, speed-slowing designs on larger state roads, I urge Council to lobby the State legislature to give Boulder the authority to do so.


How about if we do something effective to improve traffic safety?

  1. What if, instead of pursuing the ruinous objective of maintaining “free flowing” traffic (even at rush hour), we start the process of shrinking the size of the many over-sized roads and intersections in Boulder to induce slower, more attentive driving? (not to mention a financially healthy atmosphere for retail, and a higher quality of life for homes)
  2. What if, instead of continuing the counterproductive “forgiving” street design paradigm, we revise Boulder’s street design manuals to obligate slower speed, attentive driving? (including a restoration of the Boulder traffic calming program)
  3. What if, instead of continuing the failed, century-long effort of using the “Five Warnings” — which amounts to a form of blaming the pedestrian and bicyclist victim — we put more of the onus on traffic engineers to design streets to obligate safe motorist behavior? How about if we return our transportation system to people, instead of our on-going effort to be a doormat for ruinous levels of car travel?

In addition to the above, I recommend more compact development in appropriate locations, sponsoring a transportation safety speaker series, and more street connectivity.

We have a duty to make Boulder streets much safer.

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Filed under Bicycling, Road Diet, Transportation, Walking

Dom Nozzi Answers a Questionnaire About Being a Town Planner


By Dom Nozzi

November 15, 1999

  • What made you choose this particular profession?

When I was a young boy, I found tremendous satisfaction and pleasure by playing in the woodlots near my home. As I grew older, I started noticing that these lots were rapidly being converted to subdivisions, which apparently created a passion in me to adopt a career that would allow me to protect and create similar play opportunities for future children. I simply could not imagine how it would be possible to grow up without such opportunities.

Since I am an “information junkie” and love to provide information to decision-makers to help them make good, public interest decisions, and because I am adept at preparing plans and regulations that promote quality of life, and because I have strong opinions about how to create a quality of life, I felt that city planning and urban design would be a proper career path for me.

  • What classes best prepared you for this position?

Environmental science (ecology, chemistry, soils, etc.), urban design, economics, sociology.

  • Please describe your profession.

I am given policy direction by elected and appointed officials and department supervisors to prepare or amend land development regulations and long-range comprehensive plans (recreation, transportation, urban design, solid waste, conservation, land use) that protect and promote the local quality of life. I do this primarily by combining my own personal wisdom with information/concerns from citizens and elected officials, gathering research articles and ordinances from other local communities, evaluating local conditions, and information/advice from related professional staff. Much of the work includes making staff recommendations on these issues (both written and oral) at public meetings. I also answer a great deal of citizen/developer questions about city land development regulations and plans.

  • What do you like/dislike about this job?

Enjoy: Gathering and presenting useful information/plans/regulations, being looked upon as a professional expert on many important local issues (including issues that are important to my own life as a city resident), and meeting and working with a large number of interesting and intelligent people.

Dislikes: I am bothered by how often my supervisors and elected and appointed officials make what I believe are foolish, uninformed, spineless decisions that will result in a less pleasant future. It is painful to have knowledge that allows me to see what needs to be done, and observing that we are not doing it. I dislike having to spend long hours at public meetings at night where boring issues are discussed endlessly. I dislike how often I am not given any respect or recognition as a professional, and how much we try to squeeze more and more out of our public sector staff as a way to save taxes, instead of hiring more staff. I am annoyed that there is no support in my department for using techniques that make our planning/technical information more understandable to our audience. Instead, we focus on strictly following the rules or following tradition.

  • Do you have any suggestions to help me prepare for this career?

Increasingly, transportation is the key driving force to sustainability and quality of life. Traffic engineers have become defacto urban designers, because they are respected when they speak, and because their decisions profoundly determine how the community will develop. I would recommend obtaining a fair amount of knowledge in this field, especially one that focuses on making people instead of cars happy — one that promotes transportation choice. (new urbanists such as Walter Kulash and Peter Calthorpe are good). I’d also recommend obtaining education/training in architecture, since the design of buildings is important, as is the ability to draw a vision. Obtain a thorough understanding of, and appreciation for, new urbanism, since this will be the paradigm we’ll use in future decades. Also important to do some environmental science.  It is important to understand human behavior, so I’d recommend economics, anthropology (esp. Marvin Harris), psychology, and sociology.

  • What do you think it means to be successful in this career?

Playing an integral role in creating a community that is designed to make people instead of cars happy, to create real-world models for establishing transportation choice, to gain the admiration and respect of the citizens of your community, and to give citizens the awareness of how to sustain such a community without the need for professionals.

  • Would you choose this profession again? Why or why not?

Yes, I would choose it again. Urban design is the love of my life. The only thing I would do differently is obtain more transport and architectural education (from the masters) to be a better urban designer. Mostly, I love it because I enjoy engaging in a profession that is connected to my own quality of life, the quality of life of my friends and family, and because I find myself wanting to talk or read about it in my spare time.

  • What is your background (education, etc.) in this career?

Mostly answered above. I have a BA in environmental science and an MS in urban and regional planning.

  • What is the future in your profession? Great demand?

The demand is currently high in rapidly growing areas of the country, and is certain to be an increasingly sought-after skill in the future by communities trying to save themselves.

  • What skills are involved?

Mostly answered above. Important to be a good public speaker, a good writer, passionate about making the community more livable, a good typist and editor, good at doingpu drawings, a visionary, in love with learning, and wise about how to make things happen politically.

  • Are you happy with your career?

I’m deliriously happy and proud of my career — especially after learning about new urbanism and urban design.

  • Do you have anything else to add?

Persistence almost always pays off more than wisdom. But wisdom still needs to be the background foundation. The best ideas in the world will not save us unless the time is right.


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Filed under Miscellaneous, Urban Design

Education Works When the Conditions are Right

By Dom Nozzi

I’ve always believed that because quality urban design is essential to quality of life, local elected officials tend to be strongly in need of a lot of education in urban design. As a city planner in Florida, I strove to provide officials with as much urban design education as I could when I wrote plans and staff reports for them to read, as well as when I gave presentations at meetings. I arranged to regularly have my city run a series of nine urban design videos on public access TV for citizens. In addition, I worked to have several urban design stars – such as Victor Dover, Andres Duany, and Walter Kulash – be hired on projects that required outside consultants. Each of them is spectacular as an educator on the design practices I advocate. Each has taught me essential urban design lessons. In sum, I think the need for urban design education is always important on an on-going basis for commissioners and citizens. But as my writings and speeches point out, the most effective education is based on our environment and our economy. We can “educate” till we are blue in the face, but we will accomplish little unless economic price signals (such as the increasingly intolerable cost of gas, the cost of road widening, the cost of sprawl homes, the cost of parking, etc.) are providing proper price signal education. As for the environment, in my experience, a community usually does not engage in quality urban design until inconveniences and other difficulties of day-to-day life induces the political will that DEMANDS needed change. For example, consider a community experiencing high levels of road and parking lot congestion. Study after study has confirmed that conventional “solutions” (road widening and the provision of more free parking) are counterproductive and utterly unable to solve congestion problems. What to do? It seems obvious that given the studies, road widening and more free parking should NOT be used as a solution. Yet nearly all communities stubbornly disregard these studies and end up wasting millions and billions of public dollars to “solve” congestion with road widening and more free parking. Fortunately, some communities (mostly bigger cities) eventually come to realize (after much pain, suffering, wasted time, and wasted public dollars) that the conventional tactics are failing to eliminate their congestion. And at that point, even the most pro-car, anti-transit citizens are often forced to conclude that their only hope for addressing congestion is pricing roads and parking, providing better transit, and creating alternatives (such as closer-in housing) so that people can avoid the congestion.ROADRAGE1 Given this, it was not education from books or speeches or videos that was the key to convincing the community that better urban design (or better transit) is needed. No, it was clearly the aggravation felt from the congestion that drove the needed change toward effective tactics. Education alone is not a painless shortcut to doing the right thing, unfortunately. Yes, books and speeches and videos are important education tools, but such information needs to be in the right place at the right time to have an impact. Words and data can be a call-to-arms catalyst if conditions are right. Take Leonardo da Vinci. In the 15th Century, he described the design of a helicopter. Over one hundred years ago, a number of far-sighted folks spoke eloquently about women’s rights. Yet such ideas generally fell on deaf ears because the conditions were not right. My hope is that the urban design and transportation ideas I support can be in the right place when conditions are right so that the revolution can occur more quickly and less painfully. _________________________________________________ Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life. Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com 50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290 My Adventures blog http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/ Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/ My Town & Transportation Planning website http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/ My Plan B blog https://domz60.wordpress.com/ My Facebook profile http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi My YouTube video library http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi My Picasa Photo library https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534 My Author spotlight http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Politics, Road Diet, Urban Design

Suggestions for a New Student

by Dom Nozzi, AICP

Occasionally, in my work, I will have a young person ask me for a suggestion about what line of study should be pursued for a person seeking an education or degree that would help them find a career that would allow them to help implement some of my recommended urban design principles (largely, to return to the timeless tradition of designing to make people happy, not cars).

Such requests are rewarding and immensely flattering for me to receive.

Below is a summary of some of the recommendations I would offer to a new student seeking a career in town planning and environmental conservation.

First, it is essential that a student thinking about a career in town planning identify what he or she is passionate about. When a passion is found, the student is able to be self-motivated to enjoy learning as much as possible about the field for a lifetime, and to find a career that is so enjoyable that the person is more than happy to pursue the work without even being paid to do it (of course, being paid is an extra bonus).

For me, I discovered in 1989 – three years after I obtained my master’s degree, somewhat sadly – that my passion is new urbanism.

Admirably, many students seek a career that will enable them to promote and restore our natural environment, in addition to doing work that will improve towns and cities.

A crucial, counter-intuitive point for such a new student to understand is that in cities, fighting to reduce traffic congestion is detrimental to the environment (despite the conventional wisdom, which wrongly believes that less congestion means less air pollution and gas consumption – the reverse is true). Fighting congestion is counterproductive because nearly all the tactics to do so make driving a car easier (road widening, etc.), and that increases unsustainable driving and sprawl.

The beneficial tactic for the environment, economics and quality of life is to create ways to avoid the congestion that inevitably occurs in quality communities. More in-town density, mixed use, connected streets, etc.

Much of our future – particularly the future for planners, engineers and officials – will be to retrofit and renovate our roads and buildings and communities to correct our car-happy, unsustainable mistakes of the past.

The future lies in smaller roads and more compact, self-sufficient, lovable communities.

And that means it will be important for a student to emphasize urban design and drawing skills in their academic work. Other essential skills include diplomacy and negotiation, public speaking skills, and writing skills.

An important book for students aspiring to become a town planner would be Green Metropolis, by David Owen. An essay by him: http://www.walkablestreets.com/manhattan.htm

My other recommended books for new students are found at: http://www.walkablestreets.com/top.htm

To work as a town planner or urban designer, the student will need to obtain a master’s degree.

A master’s degree will require completion of a master’s thesis. Regarding suggestions for a master’s thesis, I would suggest visiting Todd Litman’s website.  http://www.vtpi.org/

Another useful site for ideas:  http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/

Assuming a new student finds passion in new urbanism as I have, it is obviously essential for a student to select a school and professors who are sympathetic to the concepts of new urbanism, transformational transportation concepts sympathetic to new urbanism, or those who strive to restore the tradition of designing for people rather than cars.

A summary of new urbanist schools which emphasize the traditional, sustainable, people-happy design I recommend can be found at this web page: http://www.walkablestreets.com/NUschools.htm

I envy the new student of town planning these days, as these are very exciting times to be starting off in the field. Our society, for a number of reasons, is seeing a paradigm shift in how towns are designed, and how transportation between and within our communities occurs. We are entering a time where a transformational “Plan B” is needed in order to contend with troubling energy, economic, and resource constraints.

The result is an explosive growth in the need for planners and designers who are skilled in the principles of restoring towns to the timeless, people-centered traditions. The design of towns that are sustainable. Towns that we can love.


Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:


My Adventures blog


Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog


My Town & Transportation Planning website


My Plan B blog


My Facebook profile


My YouTube video library


My Picasa Photo library


My Author spotlight





Filed under Miscellaneous

Is Education an Effective Way to Modify Behavior?

By Dom Nozzi

I have been shouting this message from rooftops for most of my life, with very little understanding on the part of others to show for it. I continue to hear the vast majority of people make the claim that “education” is an effective way to change behavior.


Mostly, I hear this utterly naïve claim from political conservatives, and the cynical part of me thinks that they do so because they know “education” will not be an effective way to change unsustainable consumption behavior (behavior that many conservatives support). “Let’s use education to increase conservation.” “Let’s educate to convince people not to destroy valuable wetlands.” “Let’s use education to reduce suburban sprawl.”

Advocacy of “education” as a tactic is equivalent to recommending that nothing be done. Which is why it is plausible that political conservatives like to call for using “education.”

Notice, of course, that conservatives don’t call for “education” when it comes to crime or military action or subsidized parking or robbing banks – in these cases, in is perfectly legitimate to adopt coercive laws and higher prices.

For the vast majority of us, effective behavior change can only come from changes in material conditions – usually, that means change in prices for goods and services we consume, the layout of shops and houses in our community (more compact layouts promote more walking, bicycling, and transit use), street design (more narrow streets with fewer travel lanes promote safer, more livable driving), or adopting laws. If you want gas/electricity consumption to go down, you need to increase the price of gas/electricity. Calling for “educating” people about the merits of reduced gas/electricity consumption is another way of calling for nothing to be done.

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Filed under Economics, Politics