Fighting Speeders in Your City? Traffic Calming May Work

Certain areas have more car accidents than usual. Why? Speed limits are too high, corners are too tight, and intersections are less visible. Short of reconstructing the city, how can officials reduce accidents in these areas? Often they’ll opt for traffic-calming devices.

Traffic calming aims to improve the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers by slowing down or reducing car traffic, with the intent of changing driver behavior. There are many different options for controlling speeding traffic within a city. Here are a few of the more widely used:

Speed bumps: These are installed humps measuring approximately 3 to 4 inches high (8 to 10 cm) and spanning almost the entire width of a traffic lane. They are effective at slowing drivers, but unfortunately they also slow emergency vehicles. Older pedestrians may find speed bumps a tripping hazard.

Road painting: Murals painted on the street at certain dangerous intersections may slow down drivers, while at the same time beautifying the neighborhood. A form of street art, this solution is inexpensive to install, although it may not weather the test of time. Several North American cities are adopting this approach.

Chicanes and roundabouts: Chicanes are features that create extra turns in the road over short distances. A shallow S turn, for example, will cause drivers to slow down to navigate the curves. Roundabouts are circular intersections. Drivers travel around an island in the middle, yielding to other vehicles already in the intersection and slowing down in the process.