Monday, July 27, 2015

Report Finds ‘Complete Streets’ Reduce Accidents, Improve Health

A new report on traffic safety confirms the safety value of building more sidewalks, safer crosswalks, expanded trails and traffic-slowing designs, according to the Spokesman-Review's "Getting There" column.

The World Resources Institute, in its “Safer Cities by Design” report, said traffic deaths could be reduced by adding multimodal facilities in urban areas, also known as creating “complete streets.”

“Where public streets have been designed to serve primarily or even exclusively private motor vehicle traffic, they can be made immensely safer for all users if they are designed to effectively serve pedestrians, public transport users, bicyclists and other public activity,” according to the report by the Washington, D.C. based firm.

According to The World Resources Institute, 1.24 million people die in traffic every year around the world. More than 90 percent of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

As populations grow and economies improve, the report said cities will become more crowded and urban expansion will be inevitable. Responding with more roads and motorized transportation, the problem worsen.

Instead, the report recommends dealing with population growth through compact development and infill, which shortens trips and reduces exposure to traffic risks; slowing traffic using structures including traffic circles, pedestrian islands and curb extensions; creating pedestrian-scaled retail development that separates higher-speed routes from throughways used by pedestrians and cyclists; and developing transportation systems that work for walkers, transit riders and bicyclists.

In the City of Spokane, the city has been doing some of this, converting four-lane arterials to three-lane routes with two lanes, a center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks. The City Council has adopted a crosswalk ordinance requiring marked crossings near schools, parks, hospitals, churches, trails and other spots under a pedestrian master plan.

Other local efforts involve building more sidewalks, handicap ramps, safer routes to bus stops and additional trails.

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About SRTC

SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

SRTC offers services including transportation monitoring, transportation modeling, census information analysis, travel demand forecasting, historical traffic count analysis, geographic information systems, and trip generation rates.