Right-sizing Streets: What Does It mean and Why Does It Matter to Cyclist?
There has been a lot of discussion lately about “Right-sizing” streets. What does it mean and why should we, as bicyclists, care? Below is a brief description of street right-sizing with examples of where this technique has been employed.
“Right-sizing” or “road dieting” simply means reducing the number of lanes in each direction.
As illustrated above, two through lanes are removed (from a four lane lane) and within the existing right-of-way, the new configuration provides two through lanes, a shared center turn lane, and bicycle lanes on both sides of the road.
What’s the purpose of right-sizing?
“Right-sizing” is a way to repurpose existing space on a road to better accommodate several users including motorists, bicycles, and transit patrons. Generally, the purpose is to increase safety and comfort for all users by reducing traffic speeds and more clearly delineating where various users should be on the road (i.e. through the provision of bike lanes).
Where can right-sizing be done?
The Federal Highway Administration recommends right-sizing should only be considered on roads with average daily traffic counts below 20,000 cars and fewer than 750 cars during peak hours. A road meeting these criteria that was designed and constructed for a higher number of vehicles than it actually carries is generally a good prospect for right-sizing. For example, a road built to accommodate 30,000 cars a day that’s only carrying 13,000 cars is possibly a good candidate.
Is Colorado Springs doing this?
Yes! Right-sizing has occurred on Templeton Gap (South of Fillmore), Cheyenne Blvd., Astrozon Blvd. and Tejon Street.
In addition, based on existing traffic counts, city staff is currently looking at right-sizing for Research Parkway and a portion of Cascade. Adding bike lanes to Research Parkway would provide better connectivity into several adjacent neighborhoods and right-sizing on Cascade will improve safety for students and bicyclists.
Is it expensive?
Relative to costs for public transportation projects, right-sizing is inexpensive. Because improvements occur within existing right of way, stripping off existing lane paint and striping new lanes is generally all that’s involved.
How do we know if it’s worked?
If you want to determine whether right-sizing has worked on a particular road, it’s best to determine before the project how you will measure that. Common metrics that can be tracked over a 12, 18, or 24-month period are effect on sales receipts for adjacent businesses, bicycle usage, vehicle speeds, and crash counts. City staff and community advocates can also track resident perceptions before and after the project in regard to traffic speeds, noise, and level of comfort for bicycling.
Can right-sizing help create a low stress network for cyclists?
Absolutely! Right-sizing streets as well as improving overall connectivity can greatly improve bicycling conditions in a community.
Check out some of the existing locations identified above and help spread the word – right-sizing is good for bicyclists and will help make Colorado Springs a more bicycle friendly community.
Here’s another detailed explanation of right sizing with some successful examples from other U.S. cities: