Right Sizing Is A Good Step Toward Designing A Safer Austin

Cities that have put certain design principles into practice have seen traffic death rates go down: compact development, reduced traffic speeds, streets that serve all users (not just cars), accessible and affordable public transportation, and data mapping to identify problem spots are all techniques that make streets safer for everyone.

“Tokyo, a city of more than 13 million, has 1.3 [traffic-related] deaths per 100,000 residents. London, home to more than 8.6 million people, reports just 1.6 traffic deaths per 100,000,” CityLab reports. “In Hong Kong, population 7.2 million, the figure is just 1.8 per 100,000. According to a new report from the World Resources Institute, Cities Safer by Design, these numbers are no accident (so to speak). They’re the result of identifiable design patterns and practices. Those design strategies, the report argues, should serve as a model for cities around the globe.”

One of the key strategies is slowing down automobile speeds. Austin has been doing something fascinating along those lines called “right sizing” streets. Right sizing is a technique that changes the number of lanes on a street in order to improve safety and operations for all users, and it has been implemented successfully in cities around the world.

Austin, according to the Austin American Statesman, had 8.6 traffic-related fatalities per 100,000 people in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. Right sizing could be an important tool in making Austin’s streets safer.

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Austin has already conducted “right sizing” on 37 streets since starting in 1999. Austin’s Transportation Department hasn’t reported data on all of these streets yet; however, initial results are looking very good.

Local experience is demonstrating that right-sizing projects can accommodate the same motor vehicle volumes, avoid increases in travel time, reduce high-risk speeding, and reduce total crashes.

Right sizing is not the only thing Austin needs to do, but it is a great step toward safer streets and we should do more of it. Next on our wish-list: making Austin more compact and connected, recreating streets for people – especially in the downtown area where more travel occurs on foot than any other way – and getting more people using safe, affordable, and convenient public transport.

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