Spring 2004, p.12

Safe Schools
DOT Must Use Full Toolbox of Traffic Calming Measures

Temporary medians like this one at PS 48 in the Bronx slow speeders and discourage illegal turns.

The City Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program is a major test for Commissioner Iris Weinshall and her traffic engineers. The big question is, which DOT is going to show up to run the program? Will it be the one that rebuffs parents seeking speed humps or other solutions to speeding and dangerous driving around their schools (see page 23)? Or, will it be the one that has built new medians on Queens Boulevard (see page 9), and that calmed traffic and widened sidewalks in Herald Square and Times Square?

It is hard to know. At the March 1st City Council hearing on traffic safety around schools, DOT officials unveiled the Safe Routes to School program. But they then proceeded to anger the City Council by announcing arbitrary new criteria that would make it just about impossible to get speed humps installed. Given the very high profile of the Safe Routes to School program, it makes sense politically, and would be good policy, for the DOT to use the full toolbox of traffic calming measures at the 32 schools initially selected for extensive traffic re-engineering. The DOTís goal for its Safe Routes to School program should be to reduce deaths and injuries and make streets feel more congenial and inviting to pedestrians.

The Safe Routes to School Traffic Calming Toolbox

There are three fundamental ways to traffic calm a street. They are often used together in different combinations. All approaches are intended to slow motorists to create a better balance on the street between the safety and comfort of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

1. Modify traffic signal timing: Leading Pedestrian Intervals, longer crossing times, signals timed to slow traffic

2. Humps: Speed humps, raised intersections, raised crosswalks

3. Changes in the width of the roadway, and/or traffic lanes: Neckdowns, sidewalk widenings, medians, mini-roundabouts

The Traffic Calmed School: Safer and More Inviting Walking

Traffic calming tools are used together in different combinations.

Side streets around schools: 15 mph zones enforced with 4˝ mid-block speed humps and 4˝ raised crosswalks, especially near school entrances

Side street intersections: Raised intersections, neckdowns and mini roundabouts

Arterial intersections: Leading Pedestrians Intervals, raised medians with protected pedestrian refuge, extended crossing times and neckdowns.

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