Steve Wallace: In safety, everything old is new again

The modern urban “village” format is a means of having main-street traffic uninterrupted by natural through-traffic streets. Lower Cook Street Village, in Victoria, is the best example of this safety-minded street grid.

Intersecting streets are all T-intersection non-through-way plans. The crash rate is very low in this type of organized city planning. It is thought to be a derivative copy of the old British system of neighbourhood development. It eliminates the treacherous left turn in front of oncoming traffic, because there is no oncoming traffic at the T-type ending of each street. This allows drivers to concentrate more on pedestrian and cycle movements, without having to account for oncoming threats.

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One-way streets were meant to accomplish the same type of safety zone. They eliminated the likelihood of a head-on crash, with all traffic going the same direction. In this scenario, left turns are done without oncoming traffic threat.

The delay of pedestrian walking lights, to allow for left turns at intersections, has been a long-used technique to separate pedestrian and vehicular movement.

There is a new safety move by traffic engineers. They want all traffic, pedestrian and vehicular, to go forward and delay the left turn signal until pedestrians have cleared and oncoming traffic is stopped. This is a very good move, and makes sense from a pedestrian-safety point of view. It eliminates the left turn in front of oncoming traffic, as well as pedestrian interruptions.

Scatter crosswalks are a great idea. They separate pedestrian and vehicle movements with an exclusivity given to the most vulnerable, namely pedestrians. All traffic stops while pedestrians move in any straight or diagonal fashion. All pedestrians yield to vehicles when it is their time to proceed.

There once were roundabouts in several parts of our province. The Hillside and Douglas intersection, one of the busiest in B.C., was one of them. Most old-timers say it worked well and was only modernized by the engineers’ novelty, signalized traffic lights. Everything old is new again, as evidenced by the McTavish traffic roundabout configuration in Victoria and, of course, the much-delayed McKenzie interchange.

At last, the driving record for insurance purposes in B.C. is tied to the driver, not the vehicle. This conforms with almost every other insurance jurisdiction in North America. Everything old is new again! The jury is still out on the implementation phase of this “new” system.

Zipper merging is now commonplace on our roads. Only the illiterate, or illogical drivers, are unable to understand the bright orange signs explaining the alternating behaviour necessary for the smooth multi-lane to fewer-lane road configuration.

Bike lanes are a good idea. The implementation of this good idea is sometimes suspect. Aside from the foolish cab driver in Vancouver using the bike lane as an unobstructed path to yonder lane freedom, as witnessed last week on TV, they work well. The problems are more to do with the traffic-light sequencing, as opposed to the traffic interaction.

Someone asked me a question about bike lanes last week. Knowing my support for the separation aspect, the question was somewhat disarming. Why are cyclists allowed in the traffic lanes where a dedicated bike lane is provided? Should there not be a separation exclusivity for both modes of transportation? Is it something to think about?

(Sorry to all those who did not receive an answer to their email questions last week. My email was hacked. It is back to normal now. Please re-send.)

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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