Puppetshow Says 'No' to Calm Traffic

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Consistent with its belief that planning in the public sector is an economic burden on hard-working millionaires, the John Locke Foundation Puppetshow has produced yet another "report," this time arguing against the practice of traffic calming. If you have the stomach for such things, you can find the "report" here. But don't expect much in the way of insight. The few points worth making are lost in a sea of obfuscation, conjecture, wishful thinking and misguided analysis.

As the Triangle grows, motorists face significant increases in traffic congestion. City and county planners are hired, in part, to suggest plans that will alleviate this congestion. Unfortunately, they are doing the opposite. Based on city staff recommendations, city councils in Raleigh and neighboring cities have fallen victim to the latest planning fad: traffic calming. This seemingly worthwhile goal has significant detrimental consequences, including increased traffic congestion, more deaths due to slower emergency vehicle response times, and unnecessary costs to taxpayers.

If Ms. Robinson had spent time actually thinking about this issue instead of having her strings pulled by the government-haters she works with, she might have looked across the Atlantic to cities in Scandinavia, western Europe, England and France, where traffic calming techniques (such as varied road widths, on-street parking, and traffic circles) have been used for decades to mitigate congestion, encourage transit use, and reduce accidents. To call this practice a "fad" is to betray a world view so constipated by American-centrism as to be quite nearly laughable.

The only defensible argument made in the report is the fact that some calming techniques might reduce the responsiveness time for emergency vehicles. That's a fair comment, but it fails to ask ... in comparison to what? If it takes five more seconds for an ambulance to get through a roundabout, is that really less appealing than sitting in gridlocked traffic?

After so much fury directed at the practice of traffic calming, the "report" goes out like a lamb, with much ado about nothing:

The City of Raleigh should consider some less costly and more effective alternatives to protect pedestrians and drivers. The Canada Safety Council* suggests “preventive traffic enforcement must become the number one priority …. Police must be visible and active in problem areas.” Effective speed enforcement is also possible via red light cameras. The city could also consider using roadway striping and pavement marking, stop signs, signal coordination, yield signs, turning and parking restrictions, or better illumination to increase pedestrian and motorist safety. In Raleigh’s growing downtown, the City should create as many one-way paired streets as possible. One-way pairs are safer for drivers and pedestrians and minimize congestion for commuters.

I daresay, the City of Raleigh has and is considering all of these ideas and more. But that's not really the point of the "report." Rather, this document is just like all the other nonsense that comes out of the Puppetshow. It starts with the presumption that government professionals are incompetent* and that planning strategies for maintaining safe and attractive communities are misguided. And, of course, it ends with a view about costs that ignores long-term livability in favor of short-term tax cuts.


* Holy cow. The "report" actually cite some damn foreigners in this report. Ms. Robinson should probably start looking for a new job. Everyone knows foreigners don't know squat, especially Canadian foreigners.

** There is some merit to the assertion of incompetence, certainly with regard to the NCDOT's mismanagement of I-40 construction.



What a bunch of total goofballs

(See, I'm trying to develop the kind of cursing style that is appropriate with a little girl in the house.)

One of the main approaches to my street is a Mclendon Ave (Google maps link), in the heart of Atlanta. The street features three arguably unnecessary stoplights, one of which is the old-fashioned, not traffic-actuated kind, a sudden island which causes the road to shift a few feet to the right, and "curb-outs" between the on-street parking and the side streets. There are also pedestrian crossings where the pedestrian always has the right-of-way.

The result? Traffic that flows smoothly at a reasonable pace all day long (in a city not known for reasonable traffic), and only backs up where it dumps into a road of a very different kind. Summary: awesomeness.

Did the report bother to point out that, with slower speeds and more careful driving, there will be a reduced need for emergency vehicles that might well offset any increase in response time. (And I am, like you Anglico, skeptical about the slower response time item in the first place.)

I like this new kind of swearing!

Very great.

Good to see you out and about . . . must have the day off from all that lawyering?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nice street, by the way!

Thanks. Made it myself.


You are already a good daddy Lance

and a great role model!

This "I hate government" mentality that comes out of the puppet show and other conservative "think?" tanks amazes me. And it makes me wonder how they can brainwash the masses into believing that they really have their best interest at heart! Guess it's a matter of who owns more media outlets...

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.

The Canada Safety Council

Wow, the JLF is a bunch of socialists. Next they'll be talking about how great universal health care is in Canada, since they like socialist policies so much.

CountryCrats - my thoughts, my blog.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Don't point that thinktank in my direction

Jim, I thought you'd jump on John Hood's self-serving praise for his pal Alex's assertion that freedom comes at the "end of a think-tank".

OK, I agree that a vibrant culture of ideas is a prerequisite for freedom. I agree that freedom nuts gathering together, on-line or under the Liberty Tree, facilitate the spread of liberty.

But Alex's claim that

Wherever we find thriving organizations capable of producing the intellectual DNA necessary for positive change -- the types of organizations Americans call think tanks -- freedom has a chance of taking hold. Without such organizations, freedom is a long shot.

is off-beam, especially considering the context - his article's premise that think-tanks are under assault world-wide (no, he didn't mention any local examples).

An elitist consultancy, founded and funded to twist thought down narrow channels, is not the stuff of "intellectual DNA necessary for positive change...".

Hey, though I might have a few ideas on intellectual democratic collaboration in our new electronic agora, I've never claimed to have any type of extraordinary insights or made any claims as to knowing "the path".

That said, my gut tells me that the kind of "thinking" in John and Alex's "think tanks" takes us further from "the way".

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

Funny, Will

I hadn't seen this one. Heaven help us.

The great irony of course is that the free-market fundamentalists think that the only ideas that matter are the ones bought and paid for by men like the Puppetmaster, men who see with certainty that they are always right no matter what the reality around them might have to offer.

One might conclude that their "intellectual DNA" is mutating from far too much inbreeding.

child survival

I know at the Southern Community Park, they did traffic calming to keep kids from getting hit and killed by speeding cars. But, I wouldn't expect the pro-birth, anti-living movement to actually support measures to keep kids alive. It goes against their nature.

CountryCrats - my thoughts, my blog.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.


Traffic calming works for safety and efficiency when there is a confluence of people and vehicles be they cars, pedestrians, trucks, buses, cyclists or children in strollers. Downtown Amsterdam is a premier example. The slow but steady flow of calmed traffic gets vehicles and people to their destinations faster and safer than the frenetic stop and start of signaled intersections. Bulb-outs and median islands make it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross and to see oncoming traffic. Not so with multiple lane streets and vehicles racing to beat a yellow light. Traffic calming is a direct response to recorded accident rates on targeted streets, such as Hillsborough St. with its unique mix of people and vehicles. A roundabout on NC State campus on Pullen has tangibly improved traffic flow. Ashe Ave traffic calming is a success even before completion. These are high-volume, low capacity streets with a lot of pedestrian activity.

They have lost it over there at the JLF. They are playing Russian Roulette with a bullet in every chamber.