Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Planning


"Getting sh*t done"

Gabe Klein, former transportation chief in DC and later Chicago, has just published a book, Start-Up City. We're pleased to present a few excerpts. In this one, Gabe talks about how the best plans can collect dust unless leaders push to turn them into reality.

Image from Island Press.

After launching [a set of signs that read "Building a new Chicago" for taxpayer-funded projects,] I decided to make a second, blunter version of the sign to hang in my office. My version read simply: "Getting Sh*t Done."

Each day, I reminded myself of what the mayor would really say behind closed doors, and what our actual goal in the new administration was—to serve the people of Chicago, and fast.

Chicago, like most American cities, had a room chock-full of old plans. With dusty, yellowing pages, most of these plans were decades old and often bore witness to some of the great, unrealized ambitions of my predecessors.

There was a plan for a light-rail project from the 1990s quashed by the sitting governor; a plan for the Bloomingdale Trail dating back to 1998; and an ambitious, but largely unimplemented, bike plan from 1992 entitled The Bike 2000 Plan: A Plan to Make Chicago Bicycle-Friendly by the Year 2000.

We still had a long way to go. Each of these had become stale reminders of how bureaucracy fails itself and its citizens. Today, many of these projects would cost three to four times as much to complete, but due to a lack of political will or foresight or both, all of the social and economic benefits are encapsulated in spiral-bound books collecting dust in the CDOT library.

Plans matter, but so does implementation

We can talk, we can plan, we can talk some more, we can shelve a plan, and we can create new plans, but if you don't get it done, then it didn't happen, right? This is no slight to the planning field—quite the opposite. It's a recognition that moving quickly from conception to planning to engineering to building is hard. Implementation is painful.

It's also true that planning is an important exercise, and not every idea should be taken to fruition. But it is possible to get things done quickly, even as you trudge through the bureaucratic sludge of city government. If I didn't see my work implemented (or at least construction started) during my (or my boss's) tenure, I felt a sense of failure, and ultimately, so will the people you serve.

There are a couple reasons to be obsessed with speed of implementation. The primary reason is that we have no time to waste. With seemingly insurmountable environmental problems created just since the Industrial Revolution, compounded by an ever-expanding population, and a culture that accepts an unacceptable death rate on our streets, the time to act is now.

Also, we need to be realistic about political time frames. The first year a mayor is in office is the best time to strike with a public- or private-sector innovation in your city. By the fourth year, lame-duck syndrome can set in, and/or it's all about re-election. If you want to get it done, time frame is key or you may lose support.

There's a new urgency to get things done

The public sector, and specifically city government, has experienced a resurgence. Led mostly by large cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC and a new cadre of mayors with a national profile, such as Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Adrian Fenty, and Rahm Emanuel, as well as mayors of smaller cities such as Portland, Seattle, Austin, and beyond, local governments have increasingly become the engines of innovation and experimentation in this country.

In the transportation field, cities increasingly set the tone for national and state-level policies, and, in spite of far too limited resources, are delivering new and better services to their constituents.

[Meanwhile,] the private sector, especially in the transportation arena, has ignited a trend toward consumer-oriented, on-demand, and easy-to-use mobility platforms. New technology and analytics-driven companies have sprouted to connect people and places with more flexibility, and are introducing competition with the old twentieth-century business models.

Other services are springing up to provide multimodal information, helping traditional transit become more intelligible and responsive, and in the process, more efficient and consumer friendly. Publicly led, public-private partnerships like bike sharing show that government still has the power and willingness to innovate and plays an important role in facilitating change where the private sector would not go it alone.

In spite of these trends, the chasm continues to grow between the public and private sectors on many fronts and in many places. This gulf stems broadly from divergent cultures, but also from the unmet challenges of change management, a lack of experience and knowledge about the opposite side's perspective, and a persistent skepticism of the capacity for government to efficiently serve the taxpayers.

The city of tomorrow, and the demands of the future citizen, will not be constrained by narrow political windows and interests. We have learned over the last few years in government to make change, or have change happen to you (Uber, anyone?). I believe that the rate of change we will see in our cities due to exponential technological innovation over the next 5, 10, 25 years and beyond is almost inconceivable to us at this point. So the organizational alignment may get harder to achieve, not easier, and we don't have time to waste.

This excerpt has been edited for length. You can purchase Start-Up City from Amazon. See Gabe Klein speak and sign books on November 4 at the National Building Museum at 12:30, that night at BicycleSpace in Adams Morgan at 7:30, or at Upshur Street Books on November 24th at 7 pm.


Here's how DC's youth are getting involved in urban planning

Teens from around the region recently built an exhibit at the National Building Museum to show what they know about city planning and design. It's one of many examples of how local youth are plugging into the world of urban planning.

IWWL participants at a visit to the Washington DC Historical Society research about the history of different neighborhoods. Photo courtesy from the National Building Museum.

The high schoolers behind Investigating Where We Live: New Monuments Revealed, hailing from Maryland, Virginia, and DC, participated in a five-week summer program designed to teach them about, well, design. Throughout, they learned how to create clear and effective images for plans, drafted changes to one of DC's traffic circles, and soaked up knowledge from experts from all over the planning field.

The IWWL program took the teens on an investigative journey of their city, leading to a new understanding of urban planning.

"The biggest impact the participants get is that they gain an awareness of cities," said Andrew Costanzo, IWWL's Outreach Programs Manager. "They realize that there are conscious choices being made, and that they can have a part in the conversations driving those choices."

Students developed an appreciation for the built environment, and brought their photos, sketches, and observations to life by building an exhibit devoted to what they learned this summer.

The best way to learn is by doing

To get a sense of the entire planning process, IWWL teens focused on a new theme each week. In one week, students learned techniques for taking pictures that communicate information clearly. After all, professional planners have to be able to illustrate their talking points to a wide variety of audiences, and good photography skills go hand in hand with that.

Participants put their new photography skills and perspectives to use by going around Washington and photographing public spaces big and small. One day, they visited Arlington Cemetery and the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial; another day, they visited DuPont Circle and the National Japanese American Memorial for Patriotism in World War II (yes it is real and that is its actual title). Students workshopped and critiqued each other's photos daily, and the cream of the crop now adorn the walls of their exhibit.

Students plan, sketch, and compare photographs to help design their own exhibit space. The students built the space to showcase what they learned this summer. Photo from the National Building Museum.

After a few weeks of picture taking, IWWL participants took part in series of design activities led by experts in the field.

One group worked together to imagine and draw plans for upgrades to Sheridan Circle, an underutilized circle on Massachusetts Avenue. They came up with lots of features to improve Sheridan Circle that would bring tears of joy to Jane Jacob's eyes: new sidewalks and connections to other parts of the street, benches so people can sit and relax, and trees for more shade.

More and more, young people are tuning into planning

IWWL is just one example of the ways our region's youth are getting involved in planning. The Building Museum runs other planning and architecture programs for youth like CityVision, which teaches students how to help shape their communities through design and talking to people in their communities.

Beyond the Building Museum, the Washington Architectural Foundation runs the Architecture in the Schools program that connects working architects with classrooms to teach construction concepts.

Even gardens in DC public schools are a big deal in that they are providing real opportunities for youth to get their hands dirty and participate in urban agriculture, which is something that some of the leading urban planners in the world are putting lots of thought into.

Urban planning can be overwhelming if you see it as a giant concept rather than a collection of actionable tasks, especially when you're worried about zits or long division.

"Often times, a program like this is the first opportunity for youth and teens to think about urban planning and architecture," said Costanzo of IWWL. "The built environment encompasses so much that it can be hard to wrap your brain around it."

The new exhibit was designed and built completely by this summer's Investigating Where We Live participants, aged 13-17. Photo by the author.

Programs like these teach young people about specific bits and pieces that help them to see the bigger picture, from like meeting with local residents, designers, and architects to sketching ideas and giving feedback.

Even for those who might not be all that interested in the planning profession, these programs give participants a good working knowledge of cities, and have better understandings of how the world around them takes shape.

Investigating Where We Live: New Monuments Revealed is open through June 5th, 2016.


Prince George's is way behind on smart growth. Courts are helping it catch up.

For decades, Prince George's County has seen less commercial and high-density residential development than its peers in Montgomery, Arlington, and Fairfax, particularly around its 15 Metro stations. That could begin to change now that Maryland's highest court has smoothed the path for new development there.

Maryland court image from Shutterstock.

In a game-changing decision last month, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the Prince George's County Council cannot deny approval of new development projects after the county's planning board approves them, except in extreme circumstances.

Previously, the council's ability to overrule planning board decisions made it nearly impossible to predict which developments might ultimately win approval, and which might never see the light of day.

With such uncertainty hanging over every proposal, developers stayed away. Now, with much less threat of a last-minute council veto, developers may become more likely to build quality projects in Prince George's.

Details of the court case

The court ruling states the council cannot overrule decisions of the planning board in development review matters unless those decisions lacked supporting evidence or were otherwise arbitrary, capricious, or illegal.

Maryland law gives the Prince George's County Planning Board broad authority to review and either approve or deny development proposals.

The county council, on the other hand, has more discrete, but nevertheless significant, powers under state law when it comes to development. It appoints members of the planning board, sets zoning, and rules on appeals from the planning board. But the council cannot, according to this court ruling, overrule the board's decisions on individual development cases, unless the board committed some sort of legal error.

Before this decision, the county council always purported to exercise "original jurisdiction" when it reviewed the planning board's decisions. This allowed the council to decide cases however it wanted, as long as there was evidence to support their decision.

The court, however, said that approach was incorrect. The county council does not have original jurisdiction. Rather, like an appeals court, the county council only has "appellate jurisdiction," meaning it has to assume the planning board's decision was correct, unless the board's decision was legally wrong or wholly lacked evidence.

In other words, the council can no longer simply take development review into its own hands and overrule the planning board's judgment whenever it wants.

Importantly, the court's decision does not eliminate public input from the process. The public still has a full right to argue before the planning board, and can still appeal to the council and then to the courts if they are aggrieved by the board's decision. However, appeals must be based on a legal error, not simple opposition to the project.

The CVS that started it all

This lawsuit arose out of a nearly 10-year effort to build a CVS in Adelphi.

A CVS. Not the one in Adelphi. Photo by Mike Mozart on Flickr.

The case began in 2004, when the county rezoned the property to allow retail. In 2011, a developer submitted a site plan for the CVS. The planning board approved the site plan, saying it met the rules of the retail zone.

No one appealed the planning board's decision, so everything seemed a go. Until the county council called up the case. They wanted changes, so they sent it back to the planning board with instructions to reconsider a few issues.

In 2012, the planning board approved the site plan again, this time with a few modifications in response to the council's requests. Again, no one appealed.

But once again, the council called up the case for review. This time, they denied the application altogether, after the council member in whose district the property lay spoke against it.

The council listed 14 reasons for its denial, none of which related to the original issues the council had first raised in its 2011 call up.

The developer sued, and three successive courts found the county council in the wrong.

A win for smart growth

A suburban-style CVS in Adelphi may not be the kind of development smart growth advocates usually hope for. But this case will ultimately make approval of genuine smart growth projects easier, by reducing the role of politics in development review.

Bottom line: No longer will developers have to work for years on a seemingly-approvable project, only to have the council yank the floor out from beneath them at the eleventh hour. Rather than leaving development up to the political whims of the county council, this court decision will hopefully allow objective law to rule Prince George's County development review.

A version of this post appeared on Prince George's Urbanist.


DC's two futures

After a generation of losing population, the District is attracting people of all ages, and housing costs have skyrocketed as a result. While growth has slowed, costs continue ascending beyond the reach of not only poor residents but also many middle- and upper-middle-class families.

Photo by David Bailey on Flickr.

As long as this trajectory continues, the District faces two futures: A city inaccessible to all but the most affluent, with rampant displacement pricing out people in all corners of the city (as in San Francisco); or a diverse city that has planned enough housing to fit all of the new residents alongside longtime ones.

Which course the District takes depends on the foresight (or blindness) of its leaders. They can plan for a growing and inclusive city or ignore the dangers ahead.

Continue reading my latest column in the Washington Post.



If you want a place to welcome kids, make it urban

A child's surroundings can make all the difference in what and how they learn, and urban places can offer what kids need for healthy development. Here are some ways we can make places kid-friendly.

Image courtesy of WABA.

While zoning meetings aren't exactly a hot topic on parenting blogs, perhaps they should be. Our neighborhoods' physical structure strongly influences how residents can raise children. Within the cultural conversation around the Meitiv's, the Montgomery County couple who Child Protective Services investigated for allowing their children walk home from a park, little of it has been on how communities could make themselves better places for children.

With increasing proof that children need to be granted more independence and time outside, urban planning in the DC region and elsewhere needs to consider a key group of stakeholders: kids. Parenting and good community planning can go hand-in-hand for making our communities safer and better places for everyone to live.

Vibrant urban and semi-urban communities can offer families more options and flexibility. There are a number of smart planning strategies that can increase children's safety and independence:

1. Make it easy to walk and bike

Parents won't allow children to walk or bike if they feel the streets aren't safe. Making real efforts to build wide sidewalks, maintain high-quality multi-use paths, and build protected bike lanes can provide assurance. In Austin, Texas, for example, a protected bike lane near an elementary school has helped bring the number of kids biking to class up from two to more than 40.

But ensuring kids are safe isn't limited to just controlling traffic. In some neighborhoods, parents must also consider street crime when deciding whether or not to allow their children to play outside or walk by themselves to destinations.

Making streets safe and accommodating all types of transportation in every neighborhood should be a priority for children's advocates and city planners.

2. Promote biking and walking through places kids and parents know, like schools

Installing bike racks, starting walking school buses, and celebrating Bike/Walk to School Days can help parents see that active transportation can be a great option. 2013's National Bike to School Day actually kicked off with 12 Capitol Hills schools and the Department of Transportation representative at Lincoln Park.

Other helpful institutions can include libraries and Boy and Girl Scout troops, which can run bike rodeos or other outreach activities. The City of Rockville's TERRIFIC Kids Program even distributes bikes for free to kids who complete community service activities.

3. Create shared public spaces where people of all ages can congregate

Whether parks or easy-to-walk-around town squares, shared public spaces build a sense of community. When they come together for events both formal and informal, people start to trust each other, which leads them to invest time in their neighborhoods. In addition, spaces like this are often well-traveled enough that children are unlikely to be alone.

A few good spaces in the Washington region include Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring, the Plaza in Columbia Heights, and Yards Park.

Fountains in Downtown Silver Spring. Photo by Paul on Flickr.

4. Encourage smart growth

In many suburban neighborhoods, there are few amenities within walking or biking distance. Having a mix of residential buildings, community centers and commercial businesses allows children somewhere safe and fun to go by themselves.

5. Support good transit systems, especially buses

Public transit gives an extra layer of freedom beyond biking and prepares kids for learning about wayfinding and trip-planning. While my mom told me stories about taking the bus to the next town over when she was a kid, I never had the opportunity because my hometown didn't have a transit system.

Fortunately, the DC region already has solid bus systems. Continuing to make our buses more reliable, safer, and affordable is essential to helping kids use them on a regular basis. The RideOn Youth Cruiser card in Montgomery County, which is $18 for unlimited rides all summer, is a great example for other systems to follow. Students can even purchase them at a number of schools. Thankfully, my two-year-old doesn't have the limits that I did: he already asks "bus ride home?" all the time.

Places that aren't urban can be isolating

While nostalgia-tinged memories often hold less urban places up as idyllic locations, they can actually limit children's opportunities. The lack of other transportation options makes driving a requirement for independence.

Car-centric locations limit children's mobility to where their parents are willing and able to drive them. Often these activities, such as extracurricular classes and team sports, are adult-directed. In contrast to free play, too much participation in structured activities may limit the development of executive function, which relates to self-control, decision-making and attention span.

Car culture and lack of public space also limits kids' active transportation and outdoor play. Lack of exercise and time spent outdoors can contribute to a variety of risks, from diabetes to ADHD. The lack of opportunities for children to play and move outside is so severe that it's actually a major issue covered by the World Health Organization.

Making our cities and suburbs better for children and parents can offer rewards both for citizens now and generations to come.

Note: We've updated this post from its original version to clarify that the National Bike to School Day event on Capitol Hill was first of 2013 rather than the first ever. Also, the original caption for the image of the fountain in Silver Spring said that it was Veterans Plaza. It's actually in Downtown Silver Spring.


When dreaming of Olympics or anything else, beware of "planning down"

A team of architects and business leaders met in secret for many months to devise a big proposal for the Olympics in DC. Some parts of it have merit (and some don't), and ideas should always be welcome. But some things about the way they talk about the need to "transform" DC feel wrong.

Hand drawing city photo from Shutterstock.

It's terrific that some wealthy business leaders want to help the District. A generation ago, people in the suburbs were turning their backs on DC. Even now, as Jonathan O'Connell notes in his article on the Olympic bid, too often DC, Maryland, and Virginia compete to out-subsidize large businesses just so they'll move a few miles across a border.

The Olympic bid group didn't have that attitude. Russ Ramsey, who led the effort, lives in Great Falls, Virginia, but he wanted the Olympics to revive the area around the Anacostia River. The Anacostia can certainly benefit from having more friends, and areas around it more investment.

However, there's something a little disquieting about a group of business leaders and architects formulating this plan in secret, drawing pictures of stadiums on all manner of public land and arguing it would have lasting benefits for the city without really speaking to the public about what they'd like to be left with after an Olympics.

Let's call this "planning down"

There was a lot of discussion recently about "punching down" as a concept in comedy (see: criticisms of Trevor Noah, or criticisms by Garry Trudeau). Basically, it's when comedians make fun of groups of people who are less powerful in society than themselves. This secret planning feels like something similar; let's call it, "planning down."

"Planning down" would be what happens when one group of people decide they know what's best for another area whose populace is less powerful. Many residents felt this way when they heard about the machinations for the Olympics. Those of us who did should hold on to the feeling, as residents in poorer neighborhoods feel the same far more often.

John Muller, for example, has often written about communities in Historic Anacostia, Barry Farm, and elsewhere where residents feel government officials come in for "public meetings" seemingly already having decided what they want. (The same thing often happens in more politically powerful neighborhoods, but residents have more success forcing their views into the debate.)

We need to have discussions about the futures of such communities that truly engage residents in thinking about what they want for their communities. (Some government agencies have indeed done this.) There are certainly constraints—there are specific economic criteria a neighborhood needs to support a grocery store, for instance. But I think people can understand these constraints and work with them if given the chance.

The planning profession, in fact, enshrined principles around public participation in its ethical codes after the era of urban renewal which demolished many working-class neighborhoods to build "towers in the park," like in DC's Southwest Waterfront and parts of many other US cities. (You're more likely to encounter dismissive non-listening from certain transportation engineers.)

However, public engagement isn't the same as "letting the neighborhood decide." Sometimes, deferring to neighbors means letting a more-powerful group use zoning, preservation, or other tools to exclude others. For a non-Washington example, look at Toronto's "density creep" controversy, where a group of people in million-dollar homes worried about new half-million-dollar homes hurting their property values. You could say those doing the excluding are "zoning down"; it's not planning down to criticize the practice.

Some decision-makers fear taking any action unless every community stakeholder is in agreement. That's not the way to avoid planning down. It's possible to involve people in a conversation, then move ahead with some decision recognizing that no choice, whether to act or not act, will be universally popular. The key is to listen first (and hopefully make the right choice).

Superhero businessman photo from Shutterstock.

DC doesn't need to be "saved"

O'Connell concludes his article on the Olympic bid by asking, "The question is, who will be the private-sector leader for the future of Washington?" It would be most welcome to have private-sector individuals wanting to do more for DC, or the region, or their specific communities. We just need them to lead more from behind, facilitating conversations rather than deciding unilaterally what the future should be.

Many of us in the Greater Greater Washington community are somewhat more privileged than many DC residents as well. We should keep these same lessons in mind just as much when we talk about neighborhoods east of the Anacostia or elsewhere, especially if we don't know many people in those areas.

We can't just say we know what's right for other, less privileged areas; we need to understand the circumstances and hopes of the people who live there. We can't do that entirely on a blog that's easiest to read if you work in an office with a computer, either.

We can all do more to strengthen the public dialogue around planning, to encourage planning up instead of planning down. And we should. Greater Greater Washington is going to be working on building these bridges and elevating voices from diverse communities much more in the future. Stay tuned.


Montgomery County aims to become a model cycling community

Bicycling in Montgomery County is growing, but without a sustained push for better infrastructure, we won't be able to make cycling feasible and safe for the majority of county residents.

Next month, planners will kick off a master plan to guide bicycle infrastructure. This weekend, the county is hosting a bike summit to help launch that effort.

Lots of changes are afoot in Montgomery County. Bikeshare is picking up speed and the red bikes symbolize a change in the approach to transportation within the county. Montgomery is now home to some of the region's best trails and most avid cyclists. The county has a new cycletrack in White Flint and similar bikeways are under consideration in other areas of the county. Yet, we are just getting started in creating a robust bicycle network.

Planning that focuses on data

What's different about the new Bicycle Master Plan being launched this summer is that it is based on more rigorous data collection and analyses than previous plans. Planners are reviewing every mile of road in the county to determine whether a segment generates a high, moderate, low, or very low stress level for bicyclists.

Within neighborhoods, there are many bike-friendly streets. But getting between neighborhoods and activity centers and basic services by bike often means crossing or riding on wide streets with high traffic speeds.

An initial analysis of Montgomery County's bike-friendliness found that while three-quarters of the roadway network qualifies as a low stress environment, these areas form "islands of connectivity" separated by major highways and other high speed roads.

Rockville Pike in White Flint. Image from Matt Johnson.

Most people are uncomfortable biking in such heavily trafficked environments. These low stress-tolerant groups, accounting for about 60 percent of the county's population, would be unlikely to bicycle to many of Montgomery's job centers and transit facilities without a network of separated bikeways and other enhancements.

Planners will estimate the percentage of trips that can be completed on the existing low-stress bicycling network and will propose new treatments that connect the "islands."

Analyzing traffic stress

The analysis of the stress that cyclists face includes a tool called "Level of Traffic Stress." The Level of Traffic Stress methodology was developed in a 2012 report from San Jose State University's Mineta Transportation Institute and examines the causes of stress to cyclists.

Stressors include higher volume and higher speed traffic, frequent parking turnover, and bicyclists' experiences in crossing major roads at intersections.

Lowering the stress that cyclists face will require a sustained commitment to next-generation bicycle facilities, such as separated bikeways, better signage and high-quality bike parking. The new countywide Bicycle Master Plan will reflect these practices in developing a high-quality, low-stress bicycle network and tailor new types of bikeways to specific locations.

As redevelopment occurs throughout the county, the opportunities to accommodate cyclists are immense as older areas are rebuilt and newer transit projects such as the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, and Rapid Transit System are implemented. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has already expressed a willingness to consider adding bikeways in addition to what is required in our master plans.

Hosting the second annual Bike Summit

To support this planning process, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), Montgomery County Planning Department (MNCPPC), Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT), and County Councilmember Hans Riemer are collaborating to host the Second Great MoCo Bike Summit on June 6, 2015, following the inaugural summit last year.

This event will be a great opportunity for attendees to interact directly with county planners and leaders to help shape the future of bicycling in the county. The speaker sessions, held from 10 am to noon at the Silver Spring Civic Building, will include panel discussions about the Bicycle Master Plan and a variety of bike-related topics.

Last year's summit attracted nearly 100 attendees. Learn more and RSVP here.

Public Safety

Wider lanes make city streets more dangerous

The "forgiving highway" approach to traffic engineering holds that wider is safer when it comes to street design. After decades of adherence to these standards, American cities are now criss-crossed by streets with 12-foot wide lanes. As Walkable City author Jeff Speck argued in CityLab last year, this is actually terrible for public safety and the pedestrian environment.

The rate of side impact crashes is lowest on urban streets with lanes about 10.5 feet wide—much narrower than the standard 12 feet. Graph by Dewan Karim via Streetsblog.

A new study reinforces the argument that cities need to reconsider lane widths and redesign streets accordingly. In a paper to be presented at the Canadian Institute of Traffic Engineers annual conference, author Dewan Masud Karim presents hard evidence that wider lanes increase risk on city streets.

Karim conducted a wide-ranging review of existing research as well as an examination of crash databases in two cities, taking into consideration 190 randomly selected intersections in Tokyo and 70 in Toronto.

Looking at the crash databases, Karim found that collision rates escalate as lane widths exceed about 10.5 feet.

Roads with the widest lanes—12 feet or wider—were associated with greater crash rates and higher impact speeds. Karim also found that crash rates rise as lanes become narrower than about 10 feet, though this does not take impact speeds and crash severity into account. He concluded that there is a sweet spot for lane widths on city streets, between about 10 and 10.5 feet.

In Toronto, where traffic lanes are typically wider than in Tokyo, the average crash impact speed is also 34 percent higher, Karim found, suggesting that wider lanes not only result in more crashes but in more severe crashes.

The "inevitable statistical outcome" of the "wider-is-safer approach is loss of precious life, particularly by vulnerable citizens," Karim concluded.

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