Monday, January 13, 2014

Montgomery County Bill Would Narrow Lanes, Lower Speed Limits

A bill proposed by Montgomery County council members Roger Berliner would narrow the lanes on many county roads and promote the lowering of speed limits.

The stated goal of the bill is to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.  The bill text "Limits the width of travel lanes, turning lanes, and parking lanes, as well as the size of intersection curb radii in urban areas."  This includes setting maximum lane widths in urban areas at 10 feet, the curb (parking) area to no wider than 11 feet, and reducing the turning radius to not exceed 15 feet.

The theory is that traffic tends to move more slowly when lanes are narrowed, and that this is more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.  The reduction in traffic speeds essentially happens because many motorists perceive narrower lanes to be more dangerous, thereby discouraging driving at higher speeds.  Similarly, creating a smaller turning radius forces motorists to make turns more slowly, since a narrower turning radius is also perceived by drivers as being less safe.

The bill does not specifically seem to be aimed at narrowing lanes for the purpose of creating more travel lanes.  It does however call for the creation of bikeshare stations, electric vehicle charging stations and other "amenities".

The bill furthermore sets "target speeds" for various types of roads.  For example, the "target speed" on a "Major Highway" in an "urban" area would be 25mph.

A hearing is scheduled for January 23, 2014 at 7:30 PM.  Motorists in Montgomery County who wish to comment can find their council members here.

READER POLL: Should local governments narrow lanes and sharpen turns for the purpose of slowing traffic?