Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Good news about road diet on Lawyers Rd

This summer VDOT conducted a survey to assess travelers' thoughts about the road diet on Lawyers Road in Reston. VDOT also collected information about travel speeds and crashes on the road, and it's good news:
  • Average speed dropped by about 1 mph, from roughly 45 to 44 mph, but there was a more notable change in the fastest speeds. Before the road diet, 13% of vehicles were recorded at 50 mph or above. After, only 1% of vehicles were recorded at or over 50 mph. These speed results led VDOT to reduce the speed limit on Lawyers from 45 mph to 40 mph.
  • In the four years prior to the road diet, Lawyers averaged 15 crashes per year. In the first year after the road diet, we observed only 3 crashes in the same segment of Lawyers, for an 80 percent drop. It is too early to make any firm conclusions about the safety results, but the initial trend is very encouraging.
In response to the reduction in operating speeds, VDOT reduced the speed limit from 45 mph to 40 mph in March 2010.

According to the survey, people think the road is now safer, encourages more people to travel by bike, that travel times have not increased, and that road diets should be used elsewhere:
A total of 851 responses to the survey were collected. Of these responses, 67 included only answers to the first two demographic questions; these responses were discarded, leaving 784 valid responses.

Key Findings
  • 69 percent of respondents said Lawyers seems safer after the road diet was implemented, compared with 15 percent who felt that it seems less safe.
  • 47 percent of respondents bicycled on Lawyers more often than before, indicating that the road diet encourages cycling as a travel mode.
  • 69 percent of respondents said auto travel times have not increased, even though 59 percent said speeds dropped.
  • 74 percent of respondents agreed that the project improved Lawyers Road.
  • 71 percent of respondents agreed that other road diets should be considered in Northern Virginia.

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I used to use Lawyers Rd, extensively and very little. However, I too notice the safety improvement and reduction in speeders, even without heavy policing by FCPD. I am afraid to bicycle on the road, though. I'm doubtful if it increases commuting by bike for all but really dedicated bicycle riders. Distances, safety, and climate are the key reasons why people cannot commute by bike. Around here, and most places in the USA, bicycling on most roads, shared with cars and trucks, is too dangerous.
Many people currently commute by bike. Most of the trips we take, less than half of which are commuting to work, are relatively short and could easily be taken by bike. We also have a relatively mild climate and with the proper equipment, traveling by bike is possible during most of the year. Some of the highest bicycle mode shares are in cities with colder or wetter climates than ours, such as Portland, OR, Minneapolis, MN, and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Lack of safe bicycle accommodations is the biggest factor in people deciding not to travel by bike, and the Lawyers Road bike lanes are a great first step. They are the first dedicated on-road bike facilities in Reston. I use Lawyers all the time now, both by bike and car. It's a safer road for everyone.
Do you know what happened to travel times on Lawyers Rd?
Just to clarify my earlier question: I read that survey respondents thought that travel times remained the same. I'm wondering whether there have been any empirical measurements that verify the observation.
I think VDOT was mostly concerned about safety data. I don't know if they have studied travel times. I think by inference one could say that travel times haven't changed much since the average speed was reduced by only 1mph. I suppose for those 13% of motorists who were traveling faster than 50mph before the road diet were slowed since after the project on 1% were going over 50mph, but that's a good thing.
Sorry. Got caught up with life. My response is essentially, "Duh! I can't believe I missed that."

But thanks for the polite response anyway.

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