Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Slow Down! "Traffic calming" doesn't work?

22. June 2004 • Scott Trudeau
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Traffic calming has been a recurring issue in Ann Arbor politics. Expanding traffic calming efforts city-wide was an issue in the 2002 city council race—the city now has a petition form you can download to request the City pursue traffic calming options on your street. More recently, one of the many benefits of installing bike lanes, touted by biking advocates is their traffic calming effect (AA News article).

Is it all for naught? This Salon.com article (paid registration or ad view req’d) suggests everything we know about traffic calming is wrong.

> via BoingBoing.net

Rejecting the idea of separating people from vehicular traffic, [second generation “traffic calming” is] a concept that privileges multiplicity over homogeneity, disorder over order, and intrigue over certainty. In practice, it’s about dismantling barriers: between the road and the sidewalk, between cars, pedestrians and cyclists and, most controversially, between moving vehicles and children at play.

For the past 50 years, the American approach to traffic safety has been dominated by the “triple E” paradigm: engineering, enforcement and education. And yet, the idea of the street as a flexible community space is a provocative one in the United States, precisely because other “traditional” modes of transportation—light rail, streetcars and bicycles—are making a comeback in cities across the country. The shared-street concept is also intriguing for the way it challenges one of the fundamental tenets of American urban planning: that to create safe communities, you have to control them.



  1. I’ve been thinking that N. University between State and Church would be an appropriate place to do this in Ann Arbor. The pedestrians around there are already assertive enough for it to almost be the case already.

    Especially with the don’t-walk cycle at State as long as it is, I generally see a mass of pedestrians building up confidence on the curb and eventually taking the streett a lane at a time, against the light, when they decide there are enough of them.
       —Murph    Jun. 24 '04 - 07:59AM    #
  2. I passed the Salon article to the city’s consultant for the citywide nonmotorized plan. We agreed that it was an interesting idea, but wouldn’t fly here. Why? You would have to educate several thousand motorists in that area that they really don’t own the place. Even more difficult, you would have to convince the AA police that motorists don’t own the place.

    The State/Liberty area is an even better example of where this could work, since the signals there are screwing things up as much as helping.
       —Ken    Jun. 25 '04 - 12:53PM    #