About this Project
Road diets are a way to improve the safety and efficiency of our transportation system. A road diet narrows or eliminates travel lanes on a street or highway to make more room for pedestrians, bicyclists and parking. In addition to creating room on the street for other uses, road diets also increase safety for drivers and can improve the flow of traffic. This project describes the road diet concept and provides information about current and proposed road diet projects in our region.
During the PlanET process, we heard from local governments and residents interested in making streets safer and more active for all users, including drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and businesses. The Community Leadership Team selected Lenoir City's downtown for a demonstration project, which included the need for a road diet as part of the revitalization plan. Since other areas in the region have looked at and/or are embarking on road diets in their communities, a project concentrating on their applicability to the PlanET region has been provided. The Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission and Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization staffs contributed to this synthesis of local road diet research and applicability. This project looks at the road diets under way in Knoxville on Cumberland Avenue and Central Street, as well as those conceptualized through the demonstration projects of PlanET, such as Lenoir City's Broadway and Townsend's U.S. 321.
Strengthen our existing cities and towns
Recent research has demonstrated that property values for both commercial and residential properties increase when infrastructure for walking and biking is improved. Marketability of properties, including faster sales and leases, has also increased in neighborhoods that have improved their walkability. New businesses, new jobs and increased tax revenues are all documented economic benefits related to an increased walkability of mixed-use districts.
Provide options for people who don’t drive
Around 30 percent of the people in any given community don’t drive. Reasons for not driving can include age, disability and the costs associated with using a car. Whatever the reason, people who don’t drive need ways to meet their daily needs and live independent lives. When road diets create safe, comfortable places for people to walk, bicycle and access transit, they create essential links for our friends and neighbors who can’t or don’t drive.
Assure the safety of our communities
More than 4,000 pedestrians are killed on streets in the U.S. every year. Senior pedestrians age 65 and older have a higher fatality rate than any other age group. More than 600 people are killed in crashes every year while riding a bicycle. Road diets that provide safe facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists – such as sidewalks, crosswalks, curb extensions and bicycle lanes – can help reduce the risk of crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists. This encourages more walking and cycling, which also increases safety, by increasing drivers’ awareness of the presence of people on foot and bicycle in their communities.
Enhance our existing transit system.
When road diets are created on streets that have transit service (or where transit service is planned), transit amenities can also be added. Benches and shelters make bus stops comfortable and attractive places. A wide transit pad as part of the sidewalk makes it easier for people to enter and exit a bus, especially those with disabilities. And when the entire street is safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, it makes it easier for transit users to get to and from the bus stop.