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People hit by cars going zero have 100% survival rate

February 27, 2013

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How fast?

At last night’s special meeting of the Planning Commission, the board was asked by the engineering department what speeds we think streets like West Front St. need to be designed to accommodate. The question came up because the meeting was to further discuss the work tied to the HUD Sustainable Communities Grant now dubbed the Corridor Master Plan.

Last night, two of the five corridors in the plan were discussed: West Front St. and Fourteenth Street. In the plan, both streets are called to be widened in what would ultimately & predictably increase speeds. Several planning commissioners and residents spoke directly to that concern.

So, as a planning commissioner, and with the question of speed on my plate, I felt it was as good as time as any to remind every one of the following statistics:*

If a person walking is hit by someone driving a car,

  • at 20 mph, the chance of death by impact is 5%, with minor injuries for survivors,
  • at 30 mph, the chance of death jumps to 45% and with most injuries serious for survivors,
  • at 40 mph, the chance of death hits 85%.

My fancy graphic skills lay it out like this:


Point being

On city streets, running through mixed corridors where it is expected that there will be people walking and biking along and across the street, and where, if designed to be more comfortable to accommodate those choices we would expect to see the number of people on foot and bike increase, it is imperative that we aim for speeds below the posted 25-mph. Our most walkable street, downtown’s Front St., has average speed of 18-mph and when we drive it, we get through just fine.

A small reduction in expected speeds through our neighborhood streets, even high volume ones like W. Front and 14th St., is a critical component to improving quality of life in these five corridors. Thankfully, we don’t have a lot of pedestrian deaths in Traverse City, however, the above statistics are part of us and intuitively part of the reason many people simply choose to drive when a walk would be just as, if not more, convenient, efficient, and pleasurable.

How to design for slower speeds, which are often more efficient, a view items to consider:

  • Narrow the street and it’s travel lanes
  • Plant an abundance of street trees near the street
  • Increase activity by people…bike lanes help
  • Enhance crosswalks
  • Add street furniture and create public points of interest
  • Don’t ask people on foot to cross more than 3 lanes without medians
  • Tighter turning radii at the corners

Some of these are currently in the Corridor master Plan, some are not.

The Planning Commission will be discussing the remaining three corridors next Tuesday (8th Street) and Thursday (Garfield Ave. and E. Front St.) in the near future. Thursday, March 7 is the first when 8th Street will be discussed.  Meetings begin at 7pm at the Governmental Center. Agendas can be found at the City website.

* Data is out there with varying percent that all tell the same story. At last night’s meeting, working from memory, I said people on foot who get by a car going 40-mph have a 95% chance of dying. I’ve seen data put the range anywhere from 80%-95%–the story is the same, speed kills.

America Walks and New York’s Slow-zones program are good resources for the above statistics.


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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

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