Reducing space for cars to add space for bikes—as Sacramento is planning to do once again—can cause problems, as this article from City Lab explains, with hat tip to Urbanexus Update – Issue #8, http://news.urbanexus.com/issues/urbanexus-update-issue-8-111691 .
On a rainy March evening in Pasadena, California, about 350 people packed the auditorium of Pasadena City College for a standing-room-only public meeting. The issue of the hour: Reducing the number of travel lanes of Orange Grove Boulevard. Authorities wanted to put the lightly used four-lane thoroughfare on a “road diet.” Two of its lanes would be repurposed; one would be used for a center-left turn lane, the other would become a bike lane.
When staff flipped to a slide that showed how the redesign would only increase travel time along the 2.9-mile stretch of Orange Grove from 45 to 100 seconds, a woman screamed out: “You’re manipulating the data! NOBODY WANTS THIS.”
Moments later, another interruption: “What about the surrounding streets? Where are all the cars going to go? Cut-through traffic will make them into freeways!”
For several hours, opponents voiced their objections into the auditorium’s sound system. Shedding lanes, one said, would be an “unmitigated traffic disaster.” Not only would residents who live along the road never again be able to back out of their driveways, bicycle accidents would increase (because the new lanes would attract more riders). At one point, a city councilmember decided to hold a “voice vote” on the issue. Though several dozen shouted their support for the reconfiguration, their cries were drowned out by hundreds who bellowed their opposition.
The next day, the City of Pasadena announced that a second scheduled meeting on the issue was cancelled. And so ended the road diet of Orange Grove Boulevard.
Pasadena is hardly the only American city having a hard time sticking to its road diets. Nationwide, proposals to shed car lanes in the name of improving traffic safety or adding bike and pedestrian access are often met by fierce resistance.
Such redesigns may be popular with traffic safety advocates—lane reductions have been shown to reduce the total number of crashes by up to 47 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration. But even though traffic experts and city planners are well aware of the benefits, the process to remake America’s streets from car-dominated to more multimodal “complete” streets is getting backed-up.