If you are reading this article, then it is statistically highly likely that you are a car owner and driver. It is even more likely (almost certain) that you regularly travel by road and are familiar with the road landscape that vehicles call their home. And yet, you have probably never heard of a road diet. That’s because it is something that those planning roads (not driving on them) are concerned about. To explain what a road diet is, it is worth first looking at what made roads bloated in the first place.
The Development of Our Roads
In the earliest days of motor travel, nobody was bothering about how cars move around at all. The vehicles weren’t really fast enough to kill anybody and there were hardly any of them. Of course, this is something that changed astonishingly quickly and, almost overnight by historical standards, we started to plan our towns and cities entirely around the automobile.
The roads which tended to be suitable for cars were, naturally enough, the ones that were well-paved. Before long though, it was also the ones that were big enough and wide enough. From relatively early on and for quite a long time, standard two-lane roads were more than sufficient for the level of traffic that existed at that time.
This situation lasted so long in fact that we built a great many of these roads. In fact, the urban planning of most major towns and cities is still heavily based around such roads and made up of a great many of them. In other words, we are stuck with this legacy.
The number of cars on our roads has, historically, always increased. Nevertheless, it has not done so uniformly. In fact, it has shot up exponentially in recent decades, and it is set to shoot up even faster over the next couple, with the numbers predicted to double by the 2040s.
Long before this happens though, we will have to put our roads on a diet. Our roads got bloated.
So, What is a Road Diet?
As you might have guessed, a road diet is some way of ameliorating the issue of congestion. It does not involve, however, new roads. There have been a great many advancements made in response to the rising number of faster cars; things like highway barricades such as those produced by Valtir, a company based in Addison, Texas, and smart traffic systems at intersections are becoming common. Nevertheless, a road diet is not anything high-tech like this.
Simply enough, a road diet is doing something about what has been hitherto our response to congested roads – widening them. Four-lane roads have become incredibly common in urban locations over the past few decades. But widening roads to four lanes causes more accidents and can even encourage increased congestion.
It might sound counter intuitive but reducing the number of lanes in a road can actually solve this problem. When a four-lane road is reduced to a three-lane road, not only does this discourage unnecessary car travel into busy areas, but the extra space can be repurposed with all manner of possible urban developments.
And none of this is even taking into account the safety benefits; by reducing the number “conflict points” where vehicles can potentially collide, the accidents simply decrease – there is data to back this up.
With careful urban planning, enacting a road diet does not even need to decrease motoring mobility. With four-lane roads, there are always more cars there than need to be, and shortening those roads can free up space, improve the local environment, and even offer a better driving experience for the motorists themselves.