This small inconvenience has the same effect as a traffic circle

January 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm


That’s Wilson and Beacon in Uptown, Chicago, on my walk home from the L. A small diversion in the roadway, marked by a large digital sign with an arrow, actually slowed cars down and made them stop fully at the stop sign — a fairly rare occurrence. I wish this were always there! There is quite a bit of foot traffic in the area and relatively few safe crossings. There is also am elementary school two blocks away.

One of the points of traffic calming is to make drivers slow down and bring their speed in line with that of other street users. One way of doing this is introducing confusion or navigable obstacles. Everyone at this intersection (that I witnessed) was able to get through without issue (although one driver did pull into the opposing lane to turn left, which they could have otherwise done from their own lane). The intersection is normally as predictable and wide-open as any other in Chicago. Drivers routinely roll through it, often on their cell phones.

Who’s to say if introducing something like a traffic circle with some landscaping would really work in the long run, as drivers got used to it? I’m not sure. Bumping out the curbs would make it more likely that drivers would slow down and look out to make sure that they don’t ride up onto the curb. There is, however, a bus route (#78) that runs down Wilson, which may complicate things. It is notable that the bus experienced no issues getting through the intersection with this temporary obstacle.

I hope traffic calming measures come to my neighborhood. My ward (46) is participating in the Participatory Budgeting program, of which I am a community representative. I hope some good neighborhood changes related to transportation come of it.