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What Is A Road Diet?


In communities across the country, the cityscape is changing. In an effort to promote more non-motorized or public transportation, the very shape of roads are shifting to allow for different types of road users. It’s been called a ‘road diet’, but what does that really mean?

Take New York City, for example. Last week, the city essentially erased nearly 200 parking spaces along Central Park West. It’s prime real estate in NYC, and the residents nearby have the resources to make their displeasure at the change very well known. Those spots were supposed to be converted into a painted bike lane, giving cyclists ample room to circumvent and access Central Park. This is a highly-trafficked area, and it’s a prime example of a road diet. Reshaping lanes to allow for painted or even protected bike lanes, reducing the number of total lanes, incorporating turn lanes, adding in roundabouts and other traffic calming devices; all of these tools play a role in changing the look and volume of roadways. 

One of the main goals of a road diet isn’t necessarily to incorporate cyclists. Depending on the location and needs of the community, road diets can help control traffic by lowering speeds, prioritizing moving traffic (why have 200 parking spots when you can have people moving in that space instead?) and diverting traffic to new areas safely. Bike lanes are just one tool in an effort to make traffic flow more effectively and more safely. As more communities build with non-motorized traffic in mind, these tools will play a vital role in what modes of transportation thrive.

Most importantly, road diets are ways to fix roadways that are dangerous by design. Speed, visibility, and how cars interact with cyclists and other motorists at certain intersections are inherently unsafe. Some of the worst examples include four lane roads that lack turn lanes and bike lanes. This video offers a great look at how reducing the number of lanes can make all road users safer, as well as improve the overall efficiency of travelers, too. 

Has your community adopted road diet and traffic calming tools? How has it worked out? Let us know in the comments!