Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Shibboleths: Have I mentioned two-way streets recently?

In a pleasant conversation at the package store, a regular blog reader recounted a recent conversation with Bob Caesar -- council person and one-way street fetishist -- in which Caesar advanced the claim (bereft of evidence, of course) that two-way streets would "cause" more accidents.

It eternally fascinates that Caesar, longtime downtown small businessman, continues to favor conditions that directly contradict, and on occasion actively harm, future prospects for small businesses.

His is an exurban mind lodged in a Pearl Street storefront. He'd raze the block for a parking garage next door, and he harbors no evident recognition that any progress we've made in reclaiming New Albany's downtown for human habitation likely will stall if urban walkability is not enhanced -- if urban aspects themselves are not used as the starting point for downtown's redesign.

Walking is not compatible with a higher-speed one way street grid of the sort Caesar craves, but then again, he never walks (or bikes), does he? If he did, he'd get it. Or maybe not. Let's review various refutations of Caesar's most recent knee jerk. First, the overall program.

How One-Way Thinking is Hurting Historic Downtown Neighborhoods, by Matt Hanka, ABD and John Gilderbloom Ph.D.

A key strategy to renewing downtown historic neighborhoods is converting one-way to two-way streets. Oppressive four-lane downtown one-way streets help kill neighborhoods and small businesses. We need to convert these one-way ghetto makers into two-way streets with parking, trees, and bike lanes to calm traffic and make neighborhoods more livable for families, young urban pioneers, and the elderly, who want to live closer to medical care downtown.

One-way streets pose many threats for pedestrian and motorist safety, make city streets seem less safe, disproportionately impact poor and minority neighborhoods, hurt downtown businesses, reduce the property values of homes, and negatively impact the environment and contribute to global warming. Conversions to two-way have already
happened in more than 100 cities around the United States.

These one-way streets also constitute a kind of “environmental racism,” where speeding motorists on one-way streets increase the levels of exhaust, noise, and pollution. One-way streets are predominately located in older downtown neighborhoods in minority, poor and working-class neighborhoods. Engineers claim that "one-way” is the best way because it moves traffic quicker, but they don’t understand the sociological, ecological and economic impacts of a one-way street.

One-way streets have hurt downtown commercial businesses. For instance, on Vine Street in Cincinnati, 40 percent of the businesses closed after conversion from a two-way to a one-way street. One-way streets have a negative impact on storefront exposure, which is lost when one direction of travel is eliminated as well as speeded up.

Has Bob Caesar ever considered the "sociological, ecological and economic impacts" of traffic? There is no record of his having done so.

The point in all of this is that one-way traffic increases speeds, and increased speeds directly correlate with poor street safety, for both autos and non-automotive users.

Studies Refute DOT’s Claim That One-Way Avenues Are Safer, by Sarah Goodyear (

... "In traffic engineering circles, the operational disadvantages associated with one-way streets are becoming increasingly recognized. The system...[causes] an increase in the number of turning movements and total miles of travel. One-way streets present challenges to the pedestrian due to speed and pedestrian expectations at intersections... there are simply more (typically 30-40 percent) more vehicle/pedestrian conflicts within a one-way street network than in a comparable two-way system."

Then there's the overall efficiency of two-way streets.

Two-Way Street Networks: More Efficient than Previously Thought?, by Vikash V. Gayah (
One-way streets in downtown areas are receiving a critical look. City officials and urban planners have started a movement to convert downtown street networks from their traditional one-way operation to two-way operation ... conversions are intended to improve vehicular access and reduce driver confusion. Many additional factors go into this decision, but the general premise is clear: travelers and residents prefer two-way streets for a variety of economic and livability reasons, while traffic engineers and transportation planners believe that one-way streets serve traffic more efficiently ...

 ... Two-way streets have also been found to be safer than one-way streets, for several reasons. Although intersections of two-way streets have more conflicting maneuvers, one-way streets correlate with decreased levels of driver attention. One-way streets also allow higher travel speeds since signal timing results in less frequent stops for vehicles. Pedestrians also prefer crossing two-way streets since drivers tend to travel more slowly on them and vehicular conflicts are more predictable.

I'll stop there. At Monday's city council meeting, Greg Phipps discussed an approaching meeting of the council's street grid committee. It's a good first step. Will the legislative body's self-appointed reactionary roadway centurion self-immolate in response?

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