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Archive for September, 2013

Cycling is a popular activity in Nevada, with people cycling to work, to school, for exercise, or just for pleasure. However, it is an undeniable fact that, along with pedestrians, cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. In 2011, figures show that 677 cyclists were killed on America’s roads in accidents between bikes and motor vehicles, and a further 38,000 were injured. These alarming figures show how important it is that measures are taken to make cycling a safer activity for all concerned.

Roads no longer fit for purpose

One option for improving road safety that is receiving increasing support is the concept of Complete Streets. According to the Complete Streets Coalition, the initiative involves the development of road networks that are “safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.”

An article written for the Federal Highways Administration acknowledges that the current road network doesn’t meet this standard. It highlights the fact that roads were originally designed to ensure that motorized traffic could move through the road network as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, although this is good news for motorists, it doesn’t take into account the needs of other road users such as cyclists and pedestrians – a fact that is clearly demonstrated in the number of road casualty statistics.

Considering the needs of cyclists in road design

Local authorities and health bodies are keen to promote cycling for its health and environmental credentials; however there has not yet been a corresponding increase in investment and initiatives to facilitate this cycling and to keep cyclists safe.

Towns and cities that implement a Complete Streets policy would ensure that the road networks developed by transportation planners would always be built with all possible road users in mind and not just cars. This would mean that the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians and public transportation vehicles were considered and accounted for.

Unfortunately, even the safest of roads, designed with every road safety and accident prevention measure available, will still see the occasional accident because planners can’t account for random events, or the possibility of human error. As a result, it is important that cyclists always ensure they have the appropriate level of insurance cover for their bikes. UK bicycle insurance comparison website money.co.uk advises consumers to think carefully about what they need their insurance policy to cover. Bikes can be expensive and represent a significant investment on the part of their owners, so most cyclists will want protection against the risk of theft and accidental damage. However, considering the inherent risks involved in cycling on busy roads, it may also be worth including coverage for some level of personal accident insurance, as well as third-party liability to ensure they are covered for any damage they may inadvertently cause to another road user.

Common road hazards

Evidence shows that vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians are put at risk when they use roads that don’t take into account the needs of these groups. Common hazards include a lack of safe places to cross a busy road, wait for a bus or cycle.

According to the Complete Streets Coalition, there were more than 5,000 pedestrians and cyclists killed on roads in the US in 2008, and a further 120,000 injured. Figures have shown that road accidents involving pedestrians are twice as common in areas without sidewalks. Unsurprisingly, these accidents are least common on roads that have sidewalks on both sides.

Effective road safety measures

The Complete Streets philosophy doesn’t mandate the same design of road layout for all areas, but instead recognizes that the needs of road users will differ depending on where the road is. For example, a road in a rural area will have different levels of use than a road in a heavily built-up urban area. However, all roads designed to meet the Complete Streets standards will have one thing in common – finding the right balance of safety and convenience to meet the needs of all road users.

The types of measures that might be included in a road layout designed with Complete Streets in mind could include:

  • Widening roads to provide dedicated space for different users, such as cyclists, public transport and car drivers.
  • Providing regular and safe crossing points for pedestrians.
  • Better placement of bus stops.

According to the Complete Streets Coalition, a number of studies into bicyclist safety found that the inclusion of well-designed infrastructure specific to the needs of cyclists led to a reduction in the risk of cyclists crashing or sustaining an injury. For example, the inclusion of dedicated bicycle lanes was found to reduce accident rates by around 50%.

Adopting a Complete Streets philosophy needn’t be expensive or complicated, but can have a major impact on road safety, as demonstrated by the figures relating to the introduction of cycle lanes. Any investment into achieving Complete Streets that town and road planners are prepared to make will see major returns in the form of a reduction in the number of deaths and injuries on the roads. – Jennifer Knight

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Keystone – Auto-centric design

The Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission and the City of Reno Traffic Engineer proposed a road diet for Keystone in Reno at the August 28th meeting. The Old Southwest Neighborhood Advisory Board (NAB) had been working on the project for 2 years. The NAB had two primary concerns: 1) excessive speed on Keystone made it especially dangerous and 2) a large number of residents in the NAB’s area are UNR students who bicycle to school.

A road diet would address both of those issues, reduce congestion and increase safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. The RTC has solid experience with road diets having installed them on Wells, Arlington, Mayberry and California, among others. Each was aggressively opposed before the project was approved, not by residents on those streets, but by motorists who used those streets only as a throughway. In each case, RTC had done their homework and were confident a road diet would benefit all transportation modes. Once installed, motorist quickly adapted and complaints disappeared.

Five people who live from one to three blocks from Keystone (four from a single street) wrote letters of opposition Alas the e-mail campaign in support of the road diet arrived too late to be in the meeting package. The City Council postponed approval of the Keystone road diet until the next meeting, and a planned Complete Streets workshop, but the tone of the meeting was quite negative.

So far, many people have written to support the road diet but nearly all are bicyclists. Of the people who care about Complete Streets, bicyclists are the most passionate and can be counted on to respond to an email blast.

My question is, “Where are the people who complained about the speeding cars on Keystone?” They need to stand up and be counted.

I’m a bicyclist but I’ve traveled Keystone much more in my car. I know that I would feel safer when in my car on Keystone if it were striped as proposed. I enjoy driving at a more relaxed pace and the road diets installed in Reno have not affected my travel times, despite the more relaxed pace. I believe the RTC when they say a road diet on Keystone would benefit all transportation modes.

Somerset – Complete Streets design

Most telling perhaps is that Steve Bunnell, City of Reno Traffic Engineer, is in favor. Among many bicyclists, Steve is considered to be biased in favor of motorists. He may resist the label of “biased.” I believe he is, at least, very, very cautious about reducing road capacity for motorists in favor of space for bicyclist. The fact that he spoke in favor of this project tells me that this road diet will work.

Let’s hope the Reno City Council comes to realize that a road diet for Keystone is very much worth approving.

Terry

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