Shouting Down Road Diets
A status quo bias mixed with car dependence can make it hard for communities to eliminate traffic lanes. For a CityLab article, Matt Tinoco shares details of a Pasadena planning meeting, which reviewed a proposal to turn two of four lanes into two lanes: a turn lane and a bike lane. "Shedding lanes, one said, would be an 'unmitigated traffic disaster.' Not only would residents who live along the road never again be able to back out of their driveways, bicycle accidents would increase (because the new lanes would attract more riders)." One official asked for supporters to yell out their support or opposition to the diet, the voices of those opposed were louder. The second hearing on the plan was cancelled in the face of its opposition.
"Such redesigns may be popular with traffic safety advocates—lane reductions have been shown to reduce the total number of crashes by up to 47 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration," says Tinoco.
Still, anticipated push-back can kill these efforts before they even come to the public. In Los Angeles, officials have been so chastened after the failure of a few road diets (the first of many that had been planned) that they've moved to smaller activations. "Instead of lane reductions, they’re opting for less-aggressive street treatments, like adding signalized crosswalks, dedicated left-turn pockets, and intersection tightening," Tinoco writes