A world expert on road diets, Dan Burden begins this chapter of Moving Beyond the Automobile saying, "a road diet is anytime you take any lane out of a road". Of course the knee-jerk reaction is likely to be along the lines of, "How can removing lanes improve my neighbourhood and not cause traffic backups?" But in nearly every case, the opposite is true.
Every road user benefits when road diets go in.
They're good for drivers: making roadways safer, more efficient, and providing turning lanes so through traffic can proceed without waiting. They're good for cyclists: a significant percentage of road diets identify enough room to include bike lanes and make cars more predictable on the road. They're good for pedestrians: fewer lanes of traffic to cross means less chaos and some road diets install either centre waiting islands at the corners. Perhaps most important: road diets are cheap, highly-effective and can be done relatively quickly.
Moving Beyond the Automobile: Road Diets
Dan Burdon (Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute): "The most common road diet is
converting four lanes to two and then putting in the third lane for turning, and then with the extra space,
adding in bike lanes."
Mike Sallaberry (Traffic Engineer, San Francisco MTA): "It's a way to reallocate space so that the
street performs more efficiently and it also allows space to be allocated for bicycle and pedestrian
measures. As a motorist you have fewer lane changes and you now have a dedicated ... turn pocket [in the centre of the road] and that improves safety for the motorists and for the pedestrians."
Charles Gandy (Mobility Co-ordinator, City of Long Beach, CA): "We've reallocated the space in
the street to accommodate those that live here, that work here, that buy things here, verses privileging
those that just drive through here fast."
Dan Burdon: "When you have a road diet typically you have one lane in each direction and now the
prudent driver is setting the speed and not the imprudent drives so crashes come down. Another real
benefit is that it makes it much faster to cross the street if you are a pedestrian as you end up with less
distance to cross; it's quieter; and you end up with more people walking and bicycling; we typically see more people socialising; and generally we see the value of properties going up."
Mike Sallaberry: "Back in the 1990s Valencia Street [in San Francisco] was a four lane roadway .. so
the bike lanes went in as a trial ... and a report was written after one year. We found that the number of cyclists increased by about 140% and we were finding that the merchants along the roadway were
actually very open to the idea of keeping the road diet."
Dan Burdon: "After the road diets go in ... motorists are driving more prudently ... and the retail life
improves so the businesses typically do better after a road diet. To a lot of people it's a surprise if you
take half of something away - a number lanes - that you end up with more performance for a street. It
simply gets right down to the crunch of the numbers."
Mike Sallaberry: "Road diet is one of the most cost-efficient ways to improve a roadway."
Dan Burdon: "One major reason for Road Diets is safety. ... When you have too many lanes you
induce more speeding and more risky behaviour. ... So many of our streets - sometimes 40% of the
streets - could operate better with fewer lanes."
Ref: Streetfilms, MBA Road Diet, 12/4/11