Comment 99810

By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted April 04, 2014 at 10:52:43

I'm torn on this one Nicholas. As I've mentioned before and as I tell anyone who asks, I have a diploma in Transportation Engineering Technology from Mohawk, so I am a dreaded "Traffic Engineer" more or less. Now I happen to be far more interested in cycling and walking and always have been, so I always viewed the training I received through that lens. With that said, I still really dislike the meme of the evil traffic engineer that goes around. We aren't all so bad. I'm not typical perhaps, but there is nothing illegal or immoral about traffic engineering. They are doing as they are trained to do. They just ask and answer a different set of questions, typically.

First of all, yes the Police know, the HTA "knows", everybody knows that most streets are built with a Design Speed which is higher than the posted speed limit. So there is no conspiracy here, no deliberate misleading going on. It is established practice within the field for many years in virtually every city in North America, if not the world. Does that mean it is a good practice? On city streets, probably not. Complete Streets concepts tell us that it is not good practice. The results of that practice shows us that it encourages operating speeds which match the design speed rather than the posted speed. And very few pedestrians and cyclists in an environment which is unfriendly to them.

Second, while I get the outrage over encouraging speeding, you had nothing to say about the rest of the report. It does contain consideration for pedestrians, cyclists, traffic calming, low speed local roads, etc. Those considerations are not perfect by any means, and could stand further scrutiny and refinement, in my opinion. That, to me, is the low hanging fruit in this study, the opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion about complete streets and sharing the space in the right-of-way. There is definitely a discussion to be had about design speed vs operating speed, but that is a big conversation with a lot of baggage attached.

Having said all of that, I have to push back against most of the ingrained thinking in traditional traffic engineering every day, which always assumes traffic growth, makes cycling and walking nice-to-haves instead of must-haves, plans from the centre line out rather than from the sidewalk in (question of priorities), etc. So while on one hand I get what you're saying and share your frustration, on the other hand I disagree with the conclusion that something sinister is at work here.

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