By Dom Nozzi
November 1, 2016
On October 5th, David Wagner alleged in the Boulder CO Daily Camera that traffic calming (which uses street design to slow cars to safe speeds) does not improve safety, yet significantly degrades fire safety (due to slower response times).
This is a red herring.
A study by Peter Swift conducted in Longmont CO found that when cities use excessive dimensions for roads to reduce fire truck response times, there is a net LOSS in overall safety.
Because those road dimensions lead to a large increase in car crashes, and the number of injuries and deaths caused by that increase in car crashes far exceeds any decrease in fire injuries/deaths due to allegedly slower fire truck response times. Dan Burden – a national traffic calming expert and son of a fire chief – disputes the claim that fire truck response time is significantly slowed. Boulder would benefit from having Burden conduct a traffic calming audit with the Boulder fire department, and demonstrate designs that slow cars without slowing fire trucks.
Swift’s study shows that safety is far better served when a community focuses on the much broader question of LIFE SAFETY rather than the subset of FIRE SAFETY.
Something not easy to measure in studies: When car speeds are not slowed by traffic calming measures, a large number of potential bicyclists and pedestrians are deterred from biking or walking (particularly children and seniors) due to perceived danger of high car speeds. Conversely, slow car speeds effectively recruit large numbers of cyclists and peds. Studies show that a society where there is less walking and cycling — and the more driving — public health declines and deaths increase.
The Transportation Advisory Board has been inundated with dozens of emails from citizens throughout the city pleading for the Board to calm their neighborhood streets due to dangerous speeding and cut-through traffic.
They would beg to differ with Mr. Wagner’s remarks.