How To Design Life-Saving, Low-Speed Zones - Streetsblog


As the COVID-19 pandemic has altered urban landscapes and pushed many people toward active mobility, there’s increased urgency to make roads safer for walking and cycling. Many cities are now tasked with protecting more vulnerable users in addition to creating safe public spaces that will enable economic recovery and allow residents to enjoy the outdoors. At the same time, there are long-term reasons to support this transition.


“Walking and cycling are among the most sustainable ways to get around cities – but not if they are extremely dangerous,” said Claudia Adriazola-Steil, Acting Director of Urban Mobility and Director of Health & Road Safety at WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.


Traffic crashes remain a leading cause of death worldwide, and the number one cause of death and serious injury for young people aged 5 to 29. Speed is one of the main risk factors in road crashes; in low- and middle-income countries, in particular, vehicle speeds are the leading factor in almost half of all traffic fatalities. Even small increases in speed significantly increase the probability of death or injury.


But we know what works. Low-speed zones are a key solution for effective speed management. A low-speed zone is a defined area – such as a school zone, neighborhood or commercial district – that aims to improve the safety of vulnerable users through traffic-calming measures. And by supporting safe active travel, these zones reap a variety of other benefits, ranging from better air quality, to economic recovery to broader sustainability.


A new guide by WRI and the World Bank sets out guidelines for planning, designing, implementing and evaluating low-speed zones. Below are examples of design considerations for low-speed zones in diverse settings to help create safer, thriving urban spaces.


1. High-Density, Mixed-Use Streets

High-density, mixed-use streets are hubs of activity and community interaction and are often traffic-dense. Therefore, prioritizing the comfort and safety of vulnerable users over motorists should be the goal here. These streets must provide adequate and clear separation between transport modes to ensure safety for the most vulnerable, like pedestrians and cyclists, while allowing smooth traffic flow.


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