Pedestrians and one-way streets

A recent letter to the editor in The News-Sentinel:

Traffic much better

Traffic flows much better now with Wayne and Berry being one-way streets than it will if changed to two-way traffic. It’s true, a lack of foresight in closing off the important north-south through street of Harrison was a mistake, but don’t try to correct that with another.

Making Wayne and Berry into two-way streets will impede traffic flow as cars will be making lefthand turns against and across oncoming traffic, clogging lanes that now flow east and west fairly well.

This also is not in the interest of public safety as this makes it more dangerous for motorists and pedestrians — $800,000 for counterproductivity and less-safe conditions?

— Roger Lindley

I’m glad to read local opinions by people like Mr. Lindley who care about the ramifications of changes to the urban landscape and I appreciate that Mr. Lindley mentions pedestrians in his analysis.

But studies bear out the simple fact that one-way streets are more dangerous for pedestrians than two-ways.

I’m going to quote from a long post on Streetsblog that discusses the safety of one-way streets:

One-way street networks can result in more pedestrian accidents, particularly among children. This effect has been noted in a number of transportation studies published in respected academic journals. I’ll cite and quote certain relevant reports and articles for your consideration:

First, from a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Public Health:

“Children 5-9 have the highest population-based injury rate in pedestrian-motor vehicle accidents.” Why? As the report goes on, “because in many pedestrian crashes the driver reportedly does not see the pedestrian before the accident. Higher vehicle speeds are strongly associated with a greater likelihood of crashes involving pedestrians as well as more serious pedestrian injuries…. In residential settings with large numbers of children, speed management appears to offer the greatest potential for injury prevention.

By way of explaining this effect, I’ll refer to two other reports. First from a 2004 report published in the Journal of the Institute of Engineers regarding one-way streets:

“Superficially, it would seem that crossing traffic on a one-way street is preferable to crossing a two-way street. As is often the case, the conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, crossing a one-way street presents greater difficulties to the pedestrian than crossing two-way streets…. One of the inherent disadvantages with one-way streets is that they force additional turning movements at the intersections…[and] increase the occurrences of vehicle-pedestrian conflicts at any given intersection.”

Second, from a paper presented at the federal Transportation Research Board’s 1999 Urban Streets Symposium:

“In traffic engineering circles, the operational disadvantages associated with one-way streets are becoming increasingly recognized. The system…[causes] an increase in the number of turning movements and total miles of travel. One-way streets present challenges to the pedestrian due to speed and pedestrian expectations at intersections… there are simply more (typically 30-40 percent) more vehicle/pedestrian conflicts within a one-way street network than in a comparable two-way system.

Conversion to one-way avenues may well result in more traffic volume, higher speeds, more turning movements on Sixth and Seventh avenues. Where does this all lead?

Well, from the Canadian Journal of Public Health, a 2000 study conducted in Hamilton, Ontario, found that:

“Children’s injury rate was 2.5 times higher on one-way streets than on two-way streets” in Hamilton. Conclusion: “One-way streets have higher rates of child pedestrian injuries than two-way streets in this community.”

Certainly other studies may exist that disagree with the above, but one-way streets cannot be said to be automatically safer for pedestrians. Fort Wayne should pursue two-way streets as a way to slow down vehicular traffic and support pedestrian traffic.


  1. I think in general people drive faster on one-way streets. But I think the biggest challenge to them is the destination-based development. For instance, it’s no mistake that the new Fort Wayne Starbucks is on a one-way street coming IN to downtown. It is convenient to incoming traffic and the business commute for the AM coffee fix. In some ways I think one-way traffic dissects the urban core and dilutes the ability to have vibrant 24-hour pedestrian neighborhoods….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *