By Shelia Dunn, NMA Communications Director
The Keep the US Moving blog is a collaboration between the National Motorists Association and the Keep the US Moving (KUSM) group written and curated by NMA Communications Director Shelia Dunn (with some guest authors as indicated). The KUSM weekly blog focuses on road diets, traffic calming, and programs such as Vision Zero and Complete Streets.
The NMA and the KUSM believe that it is important to include stories that oppose our viewpoint. We try to indicate those as needed.
We would love to hear from you about the Keep the US Moving Blog. Please feel free to comment below the post and find additional resources to fight road diets below. If you are concerned about road diets in your area, please contact the NMA at [email protected] or connect with KUSM at [email protected] and find additional information on their website at https://www.keeptheusmoving.com/.
The Problem with Road Diets
Editor’s Note: This post first appeared in the NMA Driving in America Blog in February 2018.
Over 80 percent of adult Americans drive and driving is the number one way most Americans travel today. Five out of the top 10 most congested cities in the world are from the US and that is why cities across the country are trying to find ways to combat congestion on existing roads.
Many urban planners at city departments of transportation want to get people out of their cars and riding bikes, taking buses, riding subways or trolleys and walking. Cars and drivers have become the scourge of urban cores. Ironically, many of us also ride bikes, take buses, and walk on streets.
The Problem with Road Diets
Under the banner of Vision Zero or Complete Streets (see below), a number of cities are trying to place a diet of sorts on roads. New York City under the Vision Zero Banner has been working diligently to create road diets throughout the five boroughs.
Generally a road diet takes a four-lane arterial street down to two to expand the sidewalk and place a bike path on either side. For many motorists, driving in a street that has been restricted like this promotes even more traffic congestion than before the road diet. Remember, the whole point is to get people out of their cars.
Vision Zero is an international program with the strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. The problem: the program takes a great deal of funds and is financially unsustainable even though the goal to end all traffic deaths is important.
Complete Streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation.
Pushing back against Road Diets and Traffic Calming is Possible!
Motorists are fighting back. In 2017, commuters using two principal commuting thoroughfares in Playa del Rey became so enraged that they not only formed two groups to fight city hall but also started a recall campaign against the city councilman who championed the road diet in the first place. In October 2017, the city reversed the road diet. Motorists fighting back in southern California started the Keep the US Moving movement.
2020 Update: Motorists and business owners are questioning current or proposed road diets across the country. Here are four recent stories:
- Bike lanes could come to part of Ninth Street in Modesto, CA. Not everyone is pumped
- San Francisco: Final 7th St. protected bikeway construction phase begins next week
- Santa Barbara, CA to Narrow Parts of De La Vina to One Lane, Add Bike Lane
- Denver: Why Is Peña Boulevard A Bike Route? And Does Anyone Actually Use It?
- DC Council proposal to move 9th Street bike lane forward stalls over questions of race and gentrification
- Chicago: Planned West Loop changes include closing block of Milwaukee, wider sidewalks
- Road diets have become campaign fodder in Kokomo, Indiana (Complete Streets Watch)
- Massachusetts: Bus-Only Lanes Coming to Charles River Dam Road between Boston and Cambridge
- Philadelphia: Chestnut Street changes, aimed at reducing traffic congestion, made permanent
- ‘We’re being held hostage in our neighborhood’ | Alexandria, VA works to combat cut-through traffic concerns (brought on by Arterial Street Road Diets) War on Cars Watch
The NMA is opposed to road diets and traffic calming or any measure or regulation that is deliberately designed to inconvenience and hinder the legitimate travel of responsible motorists. If your neck of the woods has started discussing road diets and traffic calming or you already see the results hindering the flow of traffic, check out the NMA’s information on how to build opposition to traffic calming.
Residential Street Traffic Calming
Did you know that increased traffic on residential streets is often caused by the mismanagement of the main arterials and collector streets? When cities improperly install stop signs, mistime traffic signals and underpost speed limits that have no relation to actual vehicle speeds, drivers will find other streets that flow better.
The NMA believes that the solution is not to further obstruct traffic flow by pushing the problem into someone else’s neighborhood. The real solution is to upgrade and improve the traffic handling capabilities of main thoroughfares. This means implementing physical improvements, as well as raising speed limits and synchronizing traffic controls to accommodate actual vehicle speeds. If main streets provide convenient access between home, work and shopping destinations, motorists will use them, versus alternate routes through residential neighborhoods.
NMA’s Streets That Work Campaign
Motorists deserve roads that not only work, but can also be put to work. That means allowing people the freedom to travel to the destination of their choice when they want with the least amount of interference. That is a fundamental principle of the American way of life. It also means keeping roads open for the movement of goods and services that is essential for society as a whole.
Programs like Vision Zero are designed to severely limit motorized traffic in city centers, diminishing the mobility of drivers. As noted in the NMA e-newsletter, The Consequences of Intolerance, “When one class of user in a balanced ecosystem wants to reshape the rules to suit its needs, giving little regard to the others who share the same environment, the equilibrium is upset.” That imbalance is even more apparent when the dominant class, by virtue of sheer volume of participants, is being artificially restricted.
In 2016, the National Motorists Association launched a STREETS THAT WORK initiative designed to influence lawmakers and educate the public on the societal benefits of freedom of mobility. The NMA initiative is the antidote for Vision Zero, which aspires by government mandate and at great cost – fiscally and in terms of personal autonomy – to reshape urban transportation.
STREETS THAT WORK advocates for:
- Improved road safety that is realistic, fiscally sustainable, and doesn’t feel like a government-mandated social experiment.
- An end to arbitrary mobility restrictions on urban streets that will decrease personal transportation options while increasing travel times.
- One set of “rules of the road” for all users so that individual and shared responsibilities are clear to all.
- Intelligent placement of bicycle paths that complement rather than displace motorized traffic.
Let’s face it, motorists have the largest majority of any interest group in the country. Collectively, we have a mighty big voice when it comes to things like road diets and traffic calming. Join the National Motorists Association to help bring that voice to more motorists around the country.
Keep the US Moving Blog Resources
Check out the NMA Facebook Page called the War on Cars Watch! If you are interested in joining the closed group, follow the directions on the page. If you would like to know more about the National Motorists Association, check out our website at motorists.org. Also, if you would like to contact the NMA with a question or a link, feel free to contact us via email at [email protected].
Keep the US Moving is a grassroots organization dedicated to publicizing the detrimental effects of arterials road diets. We connect people who want to share experiences and information to help their communities craft truly safer roads. KUSM has a very active and closed Facebook group. Connect with them at [email protected] and find additional information on their website at https://www.keeptheusmoving.com/.
Here are a few NMA Blog Posts that might interest you:
Road Diets and Traffic Calming
- All Traffic is Local: A Look at Force-Fed Road Diets
- 10 Reasons to Fight against Road Diets in your Community
Vision Zero and Complete StreetsVision Zero Invasion of the Car Itself
- Do Vision Zero Programs equal more Traffic Accidents?: NMA E-Newsletter #559
- Level of Service: Measuring Traffic Congestion
- Transportation Engineers Debate Vision Zero, Part 1: NMA E-Newsletter #563
- Transportation Engineers Debate Vision Zero, Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #564
- An Appropriate Balance for Whom?: NMA E-Newsletter #552
If you would like to keep track of the many issues currently involved with the War on Cars and road diets, take a daily peek at the NMA’s Driving News Feed or subscribe to Driving News Daily, a five times per week email.