Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Standards

Wednesday, December 11 by JerryFoster

Using Desired Operating SpeedTo learn to love our traffic engineers, we have to understand why they don’t feel they have the authority to design roads to meet citizens’ needs – the standards won’t let them.

Marohn notes that standards are “the engineering profession’s version of defensive medicine.”

Gary Toth invites us to “marvel at how thoroughly the transportation establishment delivered on its perceived mandate”, including  “language/terminology; funding mechanisms; curriculum at universities; values; and policies. Common professional organizations… reinforce and standardize this… at a scale that has rarely been matched by any other profession.”

Citizens should note that engineers are required to follow the standards for traffic signals (Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices) – the others are guidelines.

Toth advises “Design manuals often present standards in ranges from minimum to desirable. Has the designer selected the desirables instead of minimums?” Residents will want the minimums, as the “desirables” are from the point of view of creating a wider, straighter and faster roadway.

Conventional DesignIn this series, we’ve set up a “straw man” based on traditional engineering practices. The critique reported here comes from within the profession, however, and context sensitive standards such as NJDOT’s Smart Transportation Guidebook have been published that, if implemented, will significantly improve livability, which is the goal of the WWBPA.

We’ve seen how standards’ flexibility enable engineers to design bike and walk friendly roadways, so in our next installment, we’ll look at liability concerns.

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Making Traffic Engineers Bicycle-Friendly

Wednesday, August 17 by silvia

Traffic engineers often seem to treat bicycles as an afterthought when planning roadways. Or they do something for bicyclists with the best of intentions, but the result just doesn’t quite work.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has a remedy for this. Since 2005, MDOT has been putting traffic engineers, planners and public officials behind the handlebars for a view from the other side of the windshield. Hundreds of transportation officials and decision makers have received training in bike planning, but perhaps more importantly, experienced the streets from a cyclist’s perspective. And yes, that means they get on bikes and take to the streets.

Many haven’t been on a bicycle in decades so they don’t all feel comfortable with this. And then they might be taken down a four-lane, high-traffic arterial road without bike treatments.

You can read more about this here, and then imagine how different West Windsor and New Jersey might look if we did this too.

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Plainsboro Attracts Student Bicyclists

Monday, February 28 by JerryFoster

The big melt was on, temperatures were rising into the 60s, school was out for teachers’ professional development, and student bicyclists flocked to Plainsboro’s Village Center.

During a short stop on a bike for coffee and a muffin on that day just over a week ago, a very interesting phenomenon was observed: the numerous bike racks in the back parking lots were completely deserted. Not to worry, the benches in front had bikes locked to them, and the bike rack next to the entrance of the new library was packed!

Nice job, Plainsboro! We in West Windsor look forward to our revitalized Main Street Route 571 being able to attract our fair share of bicyclists out for a nice ride.

In the meantime, there’s a lesson for all: if bike racks are visible (so generally, near entrances), they’ll be used much more than if they are hidden away.

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