All things transportation have been on our minds this week, from a tri-rail extension to pedestrian safety we’ve been reading about how people get around and thinking about how that applies to Miami.
Lane size has been foremost on our minds lately, advocates of complete streets and walkability for cities have long asserted that narrower lanes for cars are actually safer and, combined with other measures like wide sidewalks and bike lanes, work to calm traffic. But empirical evidence related to crash data and width of lanes has been limited; a new paper published this year fills some of those gaps, showing that narrower lanes of about 10 ft. result in fewer crashes, help control driver speed, and do not impede the flow of traffic. Although it may seem counterintuitive, this paper provides additional support to a growing body of thought and evidence pointing to the superiority of narrower lanes. Traffic engineers have traditionally been resistant to this, insisting that wider lanes are safer, but as more and more evidence is compiled hopefully their thinking will begin to shift in response to the data.
Studies on lane width and safety have particular applicability to Miami since we consistently rank as the 4th most deadly metropolitan area for pedestrians. We have a high number of pedestrian injuries as well in Miami, each year averaging well over 1,000 injured. Looking to how we design our roads and intersections and altering them to conform to best practices could go a long way toward making Miami a more walkable city.
The word walkability might have a wonky sound, but it measures something quite important, not only how pleasant a city is to live in but also health. As this roundup of data and recommendations shows, walking has a significant, positive impact on our physical and mental health. Walking regularly has the potential to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression, amongst other health issues according to multiple studies. The CDC recommends that adults walk for at least 30 minutes at day, 5 days a week - an activity that is much more appealing if our streets are safe and pleasant to walk along.
Of course, robust public transportation options go hand-in-hand with walkability and improved city life, which makes the uptick in conversations on transit in Miami so exciting. For example there is renewed energy again around extending the tri-rail to Homestead, a move that could give everyone along that route faster and more reliable access to the rest of Miami. And light-rail to the Beach is in conversation as well.
We are hopeful that Miami is beginning to move toward a more holistic approach to transportation and road design, one that will increase the quality of urban life and put Miami on the map as a walkable city with world-class transportation.