11/23/2010Posted by MJ
Interesting insight into a Traffic Engineer and his thoughts on current road standards.
...In retrospect I understand that this was utter insanity. Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people. Taking highway standards and applying them to urban and suburban streets, and even county roads, costs us thousands of lives every year. There is no earthly reason why an engineer would ever design a fourteen foot lane for a city block, yet we do it continuously. Why?
The answer is utterly shameful: Because that is the standard.
In the engineering profession's version of defensive medicine, we can't recommend standards that are not in the manual. We can't use logic to vary from a standard that gives us 60 mph design speeds on roads with intersections every 200 feet. We can't question why two cars would need to travel at high speed in opposite directions on a city block, let alone why we would want them to. We can yield to public pressure and post a speed limit -- itself a hazard -- but we can't recommend a road section that is not in the highway manual.
Rather important lessons to rememeber especially when it comes to the city and future road projects. If you make it easier and more comfortable for people to go fast, they will. No matter how many speed limit signs you may try to put up. Mutliple wide lanes, no cars parked on the streets, trees removed etc all cause dirvers to feel more comfortable going faster and cause them to pay less attention.
When the public and politicians tell engineers that their top priorities are safety and then cost, the engineer's brain hears something completely different. The engineer hears, "Once you set a design speed and handle the projected volume of traffic, safety is the top priority. Do what it takes to make the road safe, but do it as cheaply as you can." This is why engineers return projects with asinine "safety" features, like pedestrian bridges and tunnels that nobody will ever use, and costs that are astronomical....