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Evaluation of Lane Reduction “Road Diet” Measures on Crashes

Posted by Content Coordinator on Thursday, August 26th, 2010

HIGHWAY SAFETY INFORMATION SYSTEM

A road diet involves narrowing or eliminating travel lanes on a roadway to make more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. While there can be more than four travel lanes before treatment, road diets are often  conversions of four-lane, undivided roads into three lanes—two through lanes plus a center turn lane (see figure 1 and figure 2). The fourth lane may be converted to a bicycle lane, sidewalk, and/or on-street parking. In other words, the existing cross section is reallocated. This was the case with the two sets of treatments in the current study. Both involved conversions of four lanes to three at almost all sites.

Road diets can offer benefits to both drivers and pedestrians. On a four-lane street, speeds can vary between lanes, and drivers must slow or change lanes due to slower vehicles (e.g., vehicles stopped in the left lane waiting to make a left turn). In contrast, on streets with two through lanes plus a center turn lane, drivers’ speeds are limited by the speed of the lead vehicle in the through lanes, and through vehicles are separated from left-turning vehicles. Thus, road diets may reduce vehicle speeds and vehicle interactions, which could potentially reduce the number and severity of vehicle-to-vehicle crashes. Road diets can also help pedestrians by creating fewer lanes of traffic to cross and by reducing vehicle speeds. A 2001 study found a reduction in pedestrian crash risk when crossing two- and three-lane roads compared to roads with four or more lanes.

Under most annual average daily traffic (AADT) conditions tested, road diets appeared to have minimal effects on vehicle capacity because left-turning vehicles were moved into a common two-way left-turn lane (TWLTL). However, for road diets with AADTs above approximately 20,000 vehicles, there is an increased likelihood that traffic congestion will increase to the point of diverting traffic to alternative routes.

While potential crash-related benefits are cited by road diet advocates, there has been limited research concerning such benefits. Two prior studies were conducted using data from different urbanized areas. The first, conducted by HSIS researchers, used data from treatment sites in eight cities in California and Washington. The second study analyzed data from treatment sites in relatively small towns in Iowa. While the nature of the treatment was the same in both studies (four lanes reduced to three), the settings, analysis methodologies, and results of the studies differed. Using a comparison of treated and matched comparison sites before and after treatment and the development of negative binomial regression models, the earlier HSIS study found a 6 percent reduction in crash frequency per mile and no significant change in crash rates at the California and Washington sites. Using a long-term (23-year) crash history for treated and reference sites and the development of a hierarchical Poisson model in a Bayesian approach, the later Iowa study found a 25.2 percent reduction in crash frequency per mile and an 18.8 percent reduction in crash rate. Because of these differences, researchers from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 17-25 project team  obtained and reanalyzed both data sets using a common methodology. This summary documents the results of that reanalysis.

Road Diet-Before

Road Diet-After

Download full version: Evaluation of Lane Reduction “Road Diet” Measures on Crashes

About Highway Safety Information System
www.hsisinfo.org

“The Highway Safety Information System is a multistate database that contains crash, roadway inventory, and traffic volume data for a select group of States. The HSIS is operated by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC) and LENDIS Corporation, under contract with FHWA.”

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