The following recommendations embrace the slow-flow streets concept, which emphasizes both slowing vehicular speeds and maintaining the smooth flow of traffic important to commuters and others traveling through communities:

LANE WIDTH REDUCTION

Roads are safer when they have narrower travel lanes. Ten-foot travel lanes should be the standard width for road segments that pass through settled areas. Ten-foot travel lanes help reduce driving speeds and make our streets safer. Standard highway lane width is 12 feet; there, high speeds warrant wider lanes to provide buffered space between vehicles.

Unfortunately, many local roads are designed to highway standards, sometimes with travel lanes as wide as 16 feet. Reducing travel lane width has been shown to have no discernible impact on flow. But just a few feet can make a critical difference to human safety.

‘ROAD DIET’ REFOCUSES ATTENTION

It’s time for Maine to embrace the national best practice of road diets for four- and five-lane roads that bisect our community centers.

A conversion to a three-lane road, with one lane in each direction and a center turn lane, eliminates having multiple lanes traveling in the same direction, a dangerous setup that pulls drivers’ attention to what’s behind them. Drivers must take their eyes off the road to look in mirrors and blind spots in order to switch lanes.

Five-lane roads can be retrofitted by converting outer travel lanes into parallel parking or protected bike lanes. Federal Highway Administration studies of road diet projects have found that reducing the number of lanes cuts vehicle crashes by 19 to 52 percent as a result of reduced speeds and fewer opportunities for collisions. Furthermore, road diets have the mobility benefit of increased efficiency and consistent traffic flow.

USE MORE FOUR-WAY STOPS

Known dangerous intersections should be designed to slow vehicles as they move through residential neighborhoods or downtown retail areas. In places where traffic flows unimpeded, roads should be narrowed to create tighter intersections. Four-way stops have an advantage over traffic lights, where the practice of speeding up at the yellow to beat the red creates dangerous conditions for walkers and bikers.

Four-way stops also allow for eye contact to be made between drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, so that any potential conflicts result in injury, not death. Finally, four-way stops keep traffic moving efficiently, instead of requiring drivers to sit at a light even when there is no oncoming traffic.

REDUCE DEADLY ACCIDENTS TO ZERO

The idea that “no loss of life is acceptable” from vehicular-bicycle and vehicular-pedestrian accidents is increasingly known as “Vision Zero.” A number of tactics can be used based on the work of other communities in the U.S. Tactics include lane width reductions, better use of traffic control devices and better design.

To best implement Complete Streets, the state should adopt National Association of City Transportation Officials street design standards as the primary guidance for design and review of street infrastructure projects within cities and town centers, where walking and bicycling should be a central consideration. Twenty-mph zones, supported by slow-street design, should also be adopted in community centers and neighborhoods where children are moving between home and school.