COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space

Road Diet Case Study: A Safer, Better Hillsborough Street

Jan 31, 2020
Jan 30, 2020

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Top: Hillsborough Street before road diet (2007). Bottom: After road diet (2017).
A fatal pedestrian collision caused community members in Raleigh, NC, to spearhead the redesign of dangerous Hillsborough Street, resulting in decreased vehicle crashes and increased economic development.

The Highlights

  • Vehicle crashes decreased by 23%
  • New private investments increased from $150 million to $200 million along the corridor
  • Miles of sidewalk have nearly doubled

The Details

Hillsborough Street was notorious in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a pedestrian fatality that occurred there in 1997. Since then, community leaders have spearheaded the redesign of the street to make it safer and friendlier. The institutional, commercial, and neighborhood mix of the corridor has naturally created a significant amount of foot traffic. Yet the congested street lacked bicycle infrastructure, on-street parking, and a safe environment for pedestrians, and the street design encouraged vehicles to exceed the speed limit of 35 mph. According to a pedestrian road safety assessment conducted in 2009, there were 32 reported pedestrian crashes from 2004–2008, and 17 reported bicycle crashes between 2000–2006. Out of the reviewed pedestrian and bicycle crashes over 80% led to an injury.

The City of Raleigh worked with community partners advocating for safer streets to rightsize Hillsborough from a congested four-lane street to a more inclusive two-lane street. The redesigned Hillsborough Street includes wider sidewalks, on-street parking, pedestrian crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and four roundabouts, along with numerous other traffic calming strategies. Since 2013, the miles of sidewalk along the corridor have nearly doubled, and drivers are now more aware of pedestrians in their surroundings due to the new road design that reduces driving speeds. The result? Vehicle crashes have decreased by 23%, and more foot traffic along the Hillsborough Street corridor has helped businesses increase their visibility and sales.

Word on the Street

“The improvements along Hillsborough Street have changed interactions between motorists and pedestrians, slowing down motorists and encouraging higher frequencies of pedestrian traffic."
— Brent Bateman and Josh Penn, UNC-HSRC (NCDOT Complete Streets)
“Revitalizing the community was more important than the street improvements,” “The street just became the focal point of how to get it done.”
— George Chapman, retired Raleigh urban planner (NCDOT Complete Streets)
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COVID-19: The Recovery will Happen in Public Space