Annica Eagle

Let’s Get Street Smart About Traffic Calming

Annica Eagle, Community Programs Coordinator, Office of Neighborhood Services, 509.625.6156

Monday, April 12, 2021 at 9:52 a.m.

Let’s Get Street Smart About Traffic Calming

Your kids need to cross a busy intersection but there is no safe crossing area nearby for them to do so. Or you live on a well-traversed route to a school, but you notice that a block away, there are no sidewalks and children end up walking in the street. Or speeding is such an issue on your neighborhood arterial that bicyclists and pedestrians have both been hit. What is there to do?

The answer: your friendly neighborhood council’s Traffic Calming program. The Institute of Transportation Engineers define traffic calming as “the combination of mainly physical measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior, and improve conditions for non-motorized street users.” For the City of Spokane, the Traffic Calming Program is accessible to neighborhood councils through the Office of Neighborhood Services—if you live in the City limits, you live in a neighborhood with a neighborhood council. Since 2010, the City’s 29 Neighborhood Councils have moved forward numerous traffic calming and school radar and safety measures to improve the quality of life in the city. That busy intersection with no safe crossing? That could be approved as a crosswalk, pedestrian island, Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB), or a HAWK (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon). Missing sidewalks? New paved pathways for a safe route to school. Vehicle vs. pedestrian/bicycle accidents on your local arterial? Installing corner bumpouts, creating parking, and adding bike lanes narrow the path of travel and create slower, safer driving conditions. With its funding rooted in red light and school zone infraction tickets, these dollars are invested back into the safety of the neighborhoods, focusing on direct service rather than roundabout temporary fixes.

Historically, the program required each neighborhood council to submit their proposed solutions. If the proposals fell outside of engineering standards from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), this kicked many proposals to the curb, leaving neighborhoods to wait until the following year to reapply.

However, the Traffic Calming program is shifting and changing to be more suitable for anyone who wants to improve the safety in their neighborhood but does not have the MUTCD manual memorized. Now, neighborhood councils can submit issues they have identified, leaving the onus on the traffic engineers to conduct analysis and return to the neighborhoods with the improvements which fall within engineering standards that could be applied to the issues. Later this year, there will be fall workshops where the neighborhood councils can work with a consultant specifically around issue identification in their areas. Getting a broader view of what our neighborhoods need will allow us to approach addressing these issues more holistically, create opportunities to leverage more state and federal funds, and have projects that bring bigger and better change for the community. Get involved in your local neighborhood council today!

If you are having issues of speeding in your neighborhood, please report to SPD’s Traffic Unit Hotline: 509.625.4150.

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