Road Diets now proven safety measure; Q&A with FHWA Associate Administrator Furst
In January, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Safety placed Road Diets on the official list of Proven Safety Countermeasures. States are actively encouraged to use the listed safety countermeasures and FHWA provides guidance on their application. Road Diets slow traffic by reducing car travel lanes and replacing them with things like bike lanes and center turn lanes.
Before and after photo of Philo Road in Urbana, IL, from www.vtpi.org, provided by the City of Urbana.
To learn more about how Road Diets came to be added to the list and the practical implications of this move, we had some questions for FHWA Associate Administrator for Safety Tony Furst. Mr Furst was kind enough to take some time to talk about the safety benefits of Road Diets for all road users.
League: What is the process by which a safety measure is added to the list?
Administrator Furst: FHWA assembled experts from across the agency to research
effective countermeasures in three primary areas – intersections, roadway departure, and pedestrian safety. In its evaluation, the team assessed the implementation of countermeasures
across the country, what we know about the countermeasures from the Crash Modifications Factors Clearinghouse – a comprehensive repository of research and evaluations
for safety countermeasures, and peer reviews by researchers and professional engineers from across the road safety field. Ultimately, the nine were chosen based on the quality of the research that shows that they are proven safety countermeasures and are ready to be widely implemented.
A Road Diet is an increasingly popular countermeasure that is very compatible with a Complete Streets application and one that FHWA promotes in the “Designing for Pedestrian Safety” courses – it is an excellent safety countermeasure and works well on many levels.
League: What are the safety benefits for drivers? What are the safety benefits for bicyclists and people on foot?
Administrator Furst: Road Diets reduce vehicle speed which makes the roadway environment safer for all road users. For bicyclists in particular, road diets often include bike lanes, a plus for the cycling community. For pedestrians, this countermeasure slows vehicles in the midblock area. Since 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at midblock crossings, road diets can definitely help save pedestrian lives.
League: What can advocates do to encourage their state DOTs to undertake Road Diets?
Administrator Furst: When a State or municipality identifies a safety issue that can be improved by the application of a road diet, safety advocates can support its implementation. When safety advocates bring their issues to a State DOT or municipality, it helps if they can bring potential solutions, and if road diets improve the issue being brought forward, it could be that solution.