I’m writing to let you know about a new resource that Project for Public
Spaces just launched – the Rightsizing Streets
which features 10 case studies and useful tips and best practices on how to
reconfigure streets in order to best meet the needs of communities today.
The case studies and guide reveal how these projects – sometimes called
‘road diets’ - have dramatically improved the safety, livability, and
active transportation options of streets across the country, demonstrated
through before-and-after analysis.
I’m including a blog posting below that introduces the Rightsizing Streets
Guide, which is intended to help transportation professionals, advocates,
and citizens transform their streets. Please share this resource with your
networks! I also welcome any feedback you have or ideas on how we can
evolve the content of this guide over time.
*Welcome to the Rightsizing Streets Guide*
Many of our streets haven’t changed in decades, even when they’ve proven
dangerous, or the surrounding communities’ needs have changed. When the
roads have been altered, they have often been made wider, straighter, and
faster, rather than more livable.
Our Rightsizing Streets Guide <http://www.pps.org/rightsizing> aims to help
planners and community members update their streets to make them ‘right’
for their context. The centerpiece of the guide is a set of ten rightsizing
case studies that highlight impressive outcomes using before and after data
on mobility, crashes, and other parameters. These are just a few of the
projects that have been built and many more are being planned all over the
country. Our glossary of common rightsizing
practices guide to street selection criteria and before and after
help facilitate similar changes in your community.
[image: Nebraska Avenue (Photo Credit: Florida
Nebraska Avenue (Photo Credit: Florida DOT)
*Rightsizing in Context*
Rightsizing’s approach is not new to PPS or the larger transportation
community. The emergence of the Context Sensitive Solutions movement in
1998 accelerated transportation professionals’ reevaluation of the
presumption that wider, straighter, and faster roads are universally
better. This paradigm shift has been glacially slow, but as with the
glaciers, this movement has reshaped the landscape of transportation. The
fact that wider, straighter, and faster isn’t always better has been the
This approach has momentum. Context Sensitive
Solutions<http://contextsensitivesolutions.org>opened the door in ‘98;
a few years later, the
through it. These approaches emphasize that streets are not solely
for moving cars at high speeds, to the detriment of other possibilities and
the physical health of community members.
But these approaches created a new problem. As more and more people began
to realize that streets don’t always have to be designed exclusively for
high speed travel by cars, the public clamor for streets designed for
people intensified. This clamor, rooted in years of frustration, was
vented at professionals with little or no experience or any sound
engineering practice on how to design streets for all users. If anything,
awareness amongst the public that their streets don’t have to be just for
cars *increased* the communication gap between engineers, planners, and
New knowledge is needed about how to design roadways differently, and also
the ramifications of doing so. This information is important both to
stakeholders and transportation professionals, which is why I wrote
Guide for Better
years ago. Professionals need to be comforted with data
demonstrating that new approaches work within their transportation metrics,
and stakeholders need to see case studies describing how and where
innovative street designs have been launched.
[image: roaddiet] <http://www.andysinger.com/>
Credit: Andy Singer
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of communities undertaking
projects that reverse the trend of wider, straighter, and faster streets.
I collected a number of these case studies during presentations by
transportation professionals around the U.S. Thanks to a grant from the
Anne T & Robert M Bass Foundation, PPS went further and spoke with folks
who have championed rightsizing. The first results of our research are
presented in our Rightsizing Streets Guide
<http://www.pps.org/rightsizing>on the PPS web site.
It has become fashionable to call projects that reallocate street space to
accommodate bikes, pedestrians and transit, “Road Diets.” This term
resonates with advocates who have been frustrated with bloated overdesigned
roads for years; I share their frustration.
But after working *inside* the transportation establishment for 34 years, I
believe that Road Diet is often a polarizing term. When citizens walk into
the City Engineer’s office and ask for a road diet, the outcome they have
in mind is already clear, before any conversation takes place, and before
any analysis of the problem and data takes place. This can put
professionals on the defensive and drive them deeper into the comfort of
their automobile-centric training. It is like having the message delivered
on a note wrapped around a rock that hits them in the head.
[image: helpus] <http://www.andysinger.com/>
Credit: Andy Singer
Rightsizing, on the other hand, opens, rather than narrows, the
conversation. It avoids putting the transportation professional on the
defensive and shifts the conversation from debating the solution to working
together to define and then solve the problem. The decades of experience
vested in our professionals can then be applied to solving a different
problem: creating a road that serves all users, not just cars.
Much of the time, this will mean shrinking the road (aka putting it on a
diet). Almost all of the time, it will involve reallocating existing space
between the modes. Sometimes, we might all come to agree that the ‘right’
size could actually be an expanded roadway. In some circumstances, more
cars, trucks, transit, or pedestrians may demand more space. Hey—if we are
going to demand that our engineers have an open mind, then so should we,
right? After all, isn’t the ultimate goal to accommodate all users
adequately and safely, rather than to just shrink roads indiscriminately?
If the preferred solution is sensitive to all contexts and modes, and is
not smaller, that should be okay.
In accordance with this philosophy, what you will find in our new
Rightsizing guide is a depiction of all sorts of projects that recast roads
in order to accommodate all users. Changes described in the case studies
include not only vehicle lanes converted to bike lanes, sidewalks, and
medians, but also the creation of public spaces, and roundabouts in place
of traffic lights.
*Explore the Site, Help It Grow*
PPS hopes that this will be the beginning of a larger set of resources with
information on more projects that can lead to Livability and Streets as
Places. We want this to be a project created by and useful to
everyone—professionals, community members and advocates alike. We don’t
want this resource to be static as of January 2013; we invite any and all
of you to submit additional rightsizing case studies so that we can
continually expand our highlighted range of solutions for our streets.
*Click here to explore the resources in our Rightsizing Streets Guide, and
let’s make this approach standard practice!*<http://www.pps.org/rightsizing>