Monday, 16 May 2016

But, it causes congestion and slowdowns right?

This is the phrase that many people use to try to fight separate cycle infrastructure, and sometimes cycling in general. I am going to show how congestion is fought in the Netherlands.

First, the fact that there are so many different alternates to driving a car means that you have plenty of options, you don't have to drive. If you do, it's a genuine choice between many fast and safe options. Thus, many will switch to cycling, walking and public transport. This massively reduces the number of cars you have on the road in the first place. It also means that you can take routes you might not have before. You can go straight to work while your children cycle to school or take the bus. This reduces the number of trips even more. And many shopping trips will be done by bike, another large chunk of journeys not done by car.

The next big thing they use to fight congestion is to use well designed motorways or expressways and through roads to carry most of the traffic. This means fewer stops, more space between interchanges, less weaving, fewer crashes and by using electronic controls, they reduce the number of time delaying and often times dangerous crashes and improve the efficiency of the road in the first place. Shoulder running can be allowed during congested periods too, as can a ban on trucks overtaking. This can add a huge amount of efficiency.

Another major addition is the reduction in the number of stroads and monofunctionalizing roads. Imagine if you drove down a road like Gateway Boulevard but didn't have to deal with nearly the number of minor side streets and perhaps even avoided a couple traffic lights. This also decreases weaving, lane changes, congestion and the number of crashes. Access would be maintained via 30 km/h service streets or via side streets.

The Dutch model also adds bus bays and bus lanes. A lot of the lane changes in urban areas is done to avoid being behind a bus, and so by not needing to worry about this, it's safer and more efficient, and less congested.

Parking would also occur less often on main roads and collector roads, removing more obstacles and providing better sightlines, and thus fewer emergency slowdowns would occur.

Traffic signals are reduced in number and made much more efficient. Traffic signals are operated by demand not pre programmed. Pedestrians only get walk lights when they are actually there, thus, the amber light can come on more quickly when they don't come. And by using crossing sensors to figure out whether pedestrians have cleared the crossing gives them extra time if they need it and less time if the crossing is clear. By having signal stages that rely on demand as well, you don't always need to have left turn arrows if there is no left turning traffic. Having separate turn signals for all of the different directions and modes, transit if they have reserved lanes, cyclists if they have either a separate path or dedicated lane, and pedestrians if they have their own sidewalk, allows the signals to be much more flexible.

Many grade separations in vital areas would be added. Sometimes for car to car conflicts, more times for pedestrians and cyclists and car conflicts. 75 St would have at grade pedestrian and cycle crossings removed and replaced by underpasses. By adding these underpasses on the desire lines this doesn't cause a problem for them, but it removes a lot of the danger of at grade crossings with such a busy road and prevents slowdowns.

Roundabouts add a lot of efficiency. They would replace many traffic signals and stop signs. It is better to be flowing at 30 km/h than going 0 km/h waiting 45 seconds for a green light. And many stop signs would be removed in favour of yield signs. This reduces driver frustration and allows more efficient movements.

Speeds would be made more homogeneous under the principle of Sustainable Safety. Thus many speed limits will change to account for this. You'd be able to legally go 120 and 130 km/h on hundreds of kilometres of roads in the province. Some urban arterials would be upped to 70 km/h, and some limited access corridors would go to 100, like Wayne Gretzky Drive. Many arterials would go down to 50, but it would be offset by having less stop start traffic and the ability to use roundabouts more effectively.

Some roads would be built as bypasses. An East bypass of St Albert would help traffic coming from the East that never intended to go into St Albert. Many local communities wouldn't have to deal with a massive flow of traffic. And the motor traffic wouldn't have to deal with the reduced speed, stop signs and traffic lights.

The Dutch really do have less congestion as a result of this, and more efficient journeys. And if you are worried about lane reductions, keep in mind that traffic will expend or reduce to fill just about any niche if you let it. Rarely is congestion the result of a lack of lanes but a bottleneck somewhere. Or multiple bottlenecks. Removing these bottlenecks is the main thing that I try to reduce with the designs I just shown here. They work. Even in North America. Why not adopt them to show just how efficient our roads can be if we let them?


  1. This I agree is a great way of fighting congestion.

  2. It does not cause congestion and slowdown, I actually wonder. This is good information.


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