What is a Complete Street?

Whyte Avenue is currently designed to provide safe access to motorists at the expense of other people using the streets. A Complete Street enables safe access for all users. Here is one definition of a Complete Street:

Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations. (source)

 

It’s the drivers’ fault! No it’s the people walking! No, it’s people on bikes!

For too long we’ve been playing the blame game. ENOUGH.

If you create a system that is only safe if everyone within it makes no mistakes, injuries and deaths are inevitable. We are all human.

Whyte Avenue is designed to kill and injure people. City Council can make it safe by redesigning it, and they should.

How will Whyte Avenue become safer for everyone (even drivers) after a Reboot?

Many different design strategies need to be used to make a street safer overall. However, the most important one is probably to create a lower design speed for the Avenue. A design speed is the speed at which most drivers feel safe driving on a street. A safe design speed for the busiest parts of Whyte Avenue (99 Street – 109 Street) is 30 km/h. 

This is the effect that speed has on collisions with vulnerable road users:

30why

 

A street’s design speed can be affected by many different elements, including reduced lane widths and pinch points at intersections (more details here).

But if you lower the speed Whyte Avenue will become impassable!

Not true. Although lower speeds on Whyte may add a few seconds to drive times, they can also (counter-intuitively) reduce congestion.

One study noted: “The capacity of a given lane depends on the time-intervals between successive vehicles. The slower the leading car drives in front of a queue, the closer follows the next car. From the point of view of capacity, it looks like the optimal speed level in urban street network is somewhere between 30 and 40 kilometers per hour” (source)

In short, slower-moving vehicles drive closer together, reducing congestion in many circumstances.

Is there evidence that making Whyte Avenue a Complete Street make it safer?

The City of Toronto did an evidence review of Complete Streets principles, and it found that:

“Many health associations have been found, including physical activity, traffic safety, body
weight, physical health, and mental and social health.” (emphasis ours)

How can Whyte Avenue be safer for people crossing it and its streets?

Here are a few ways. Note: these are just examples. If The City redesigns Whyte Avenue according to its Complete Streets guidelines, it *could* choose from these options.

  • Curb Extensions
    • Extending the curb into the parking lane at intersections reduces crossing distance for people on foot. Furthermore, it makes them more visible to drivers, and gives them better sight lines into the oncoming traffic lanes. (Note: Curb extensions don’t take away any parking from drivers, as they extend only into the no-parking zones) Some examples:
    • A double-curb extension provides a safer crossing for pedestrians in either direction:
      • bulbout
    • Curb extensions give unused space back to people on foot, while eliminating guess work on how close to the curb drivers can park their cars:
      • curbextbulbout2
  • No Right Turn On Red
    • Many countries already outlaw turning right on a red light, and in very busy areas like Whyte Avenue, forbidding right turns on red lights at certain intersections could increase safety for those attempting to get across the street.
  • Lower Design Speed
    • A street can (and should) be designed to “feel” safe at a safe speed. Using various design elements such as narrower lanes and other geometric properties, Whyte Avenue could be designed for a 30 km/h – 40 km/h speed. Lowering speeds on Whyte would be the single most important factor in increasing safety for vulnerable users on the Avenue.

You want to take away all the parking!

Not true. In fact, parked cars can protect people walking in many circumstances. It is entirely possible that Whyte Avenue could be redesigned without any net parking being lost.