There's nothing that gets people riled up more than the appearance of taking precious street space away from cars. The changes to Cedar Way and 228th have been no exception. The lane configuration for Cedar Way is being modified from four travel lanes to two travel lanes, two bike lanes, and a center turn lane. 228th will also see the addition of bike lanes east of Cedar Way/44th. This type of modification is commonly known as a "road diet."
The project will also add flashing crosswalk beacons at two locations and update curb ramps to meet current ADA requirements. Below are before and after cross sections of Cedar Way.
The changes have already been made on Cedar Way south of 233rd. The transition is a little awkward for drivers right now but when the project is complete these will be much safer streets for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Vehicle Capacity is Not Reduced
Studies show that changing a street from four travel lanes to two travel lanes and a left turn lane rarely decreases the capacity for automobiles. In fact many times it actually increases the capacity as cars turning left enter the center turn lane and out of the travel lanes, avoiding excessive lane changes by other cars to move around the left turning vehicle. Most road diet projects result in the same or greater traffic volumes, but at a slower speed.
Safer for Drivers
I drive through here several times every day and, anticipating these change, I've paid close attention to the behavior of drivers. Even with the change only made south of 233rd, I've already noticed changes in driver behavior. Before the change cars could go as fast as they wanted between 228th and 236th because there was rarely any queue at the lights and the majority of the street was empty. The result was that cars would travel well over 50 mph. After the change I've noticed cars travelling closer to the speed limit. The narrower lanes and adjacent bike lanes make it less comfortable to speed and bring the design of the road more in line with the speed cars should be travelling. The data on road diets indicate that these types of modifications reduce the number of car crashes.
Safer for Cyclists
Adding dedicated bike lanes and reducing vehicle speeds will make Cedar Way and 228th much more conducive and safer for cycling. Incrementally making our streets safer for biking isn't going to get everyone in the city picking up bikes and commuting every day but it will help give people safe options for non-automobile forms of transportation. Getting people out of their cars, especially for short trips, and using bikes and walking will help our roads last longer, improve the health of our community, and is better for the environment.
Safer for Pedestrians
A lot of people walk on these sidewalks getting to and from Cedar Plaza and a car going 50+ mph just feet from you is not only unsafe it's very uncomfortable and probably reduces the amount of people that would walk for their short trips rather than drive. Reducing to two travel lanes and adding bike lanes adds a buffer for pedestrians and slows traffic allowing the street to be more usable by people who choose not to drive or simply may not be able to afford a car. Decreasing the number of travel lanes also makes it much easier for pedestrians to cross the street. Instead of worrying about four lanes of traffic at varying speeds, now there is only two.
It's important to keep these points in mind as more of our streets are modified to be usable by people of all abilities and give people more transportation choices.
Questions or comments? Leave a comment below.
Here is a video further explaining the benefits of road diets: