Communities receive many benefits when a road diet reclaims congested and vehicle-prioritized streets to create safe, balanced, and active corridors.
Road diets lead to greater safety by slowing down through movement and redistributing space. These safety outcomes have a direct impact on people on foot and bicycles, patrons of a sidewalk business, and those behind the wheel. When redesigning a street, it is vital to prioritize designs that enable safe mobility for particularly vulnerable users, such as children and elderly pedestrians.
Not all transportation modes are created equal. Each has its own advantages in terms of safety, cost, efficiency, speed, and inclusivity. Safety accommodations for people on bicycles and on foot require a significantly less amount of space than single occupancy vehicles. By freeing up space and balancing the needs of different types of users, road diets create the opportunity for truly multimodal streets.
One prominent way of utilizing the freed up space from a road diet is expanding sidewalk space, directly impacting the current and future businesses that front on to them. Sidewalk businesses—like cafe’s, that contribute spillover activity to other business and spaces – contribute to an areas’ economic vitality, walkability, perceived safety, and overall appeal.
Pedestrians and cyclists spend more money on local businesses than motorists. An unsurprising revelation from several research studies supports the case for better infrastructure to improve the experience of these users, which in turn improves the local economy.
The grayer and harder the pavement, the more prone an area is to flooding and the urban heat island effect. Creating space for more softscape and green infrastructure can be extremely challenging in existing built environments, making small and incremental change a more realistic solution. Road diets can free up space for resilient softscape to combat the increasing threat of weather events in pre-existing developments.
Unfortunately, too few streets are safe, comfortable, or attractive to the human-scale user (people choosing to walk or bike). Road diets provide the opportunity to turn high-speed, low-capacity streets into vibrant corridors.
All of the benefits outlined above make the street a more inviting, accommodating, and memorable place to frequent. Placemaking is all about cultivating that sense of attachment to a place, and a road diet is a key strategy for them.