Slow the Cars

Ladner Must Stop Tempting Big Truck Drivers

There are some roads and highways that feel like they are designed especially for your big souped-up truck. Wide-open spaces, broad shoulders, and endless views. Tight winding forest roads where only the rough and tough travel. Treacherous dirt roads that repel road graders, minivans, and Kias but welcome you with open arms.

Yet, you know your lift kit and custom exhaust system wasn’t added so you could outperform everyone in town, was it? You need that raw adrenaline-fueled performance when you’re fording creeks and scaling mountains! When you’re at the race track or the truck rally, right?!

Yet when it comes to the streets in you and your friends’ neighbourhoods in Ladner, you feel like you’re being set up in two different ways:

  • First of all, you ask, “Why should I be expected to keep my truck cruising down the streets of Ladner at a speed of 50 km/h (!) when there are small children around? It’s only fair and better for me if we would just make it standard to cruise in town at a calm 30 km/h. It’s not like I need to prove the performance capabilities of my truck on residential streets!”
  • Second of all, you ask, “Don’t people know that it’s tempting to be let loose on a wide street in a big truck? I’m a good driver – I know what to do on open roads! Why would a city street be designed in a way that mimics the open road when there are so many hazards out there?”

We can sympathise with these feelings because it’s not just large trucks that experience this sensation. Most motor vehicles are designed for highway speeds in excess of 110 km/h and it takes very little effort to accelerate from a standstill to 50 km/h in our vehicles. In fact, car companies market their vehicles with 0-60 mph acceleration stats as a feature! Car commercials frequently show us cars accelerating through empty city streets or zooming through the countryside. However, the route that vehicle is most likely going to travel the most is the residential streets in the immediate proximity of your home – a place where all that speed and power is counterproductive. Why? We have these duelling instincts in our vehicles: to drive safely and to drive quickly. Can you do both? On a highway you can! In a neighbourhood, you can’t!

Within Delta’s neighbourhoods, you know that your truck will crush whatever soft-tissue organism that it runs into. I should add, it’s not just trucks but your potential impact on soft-tissue’d organisms is most pronounced because of the higher clearances and points of impact of a raised bumper and grille in comparison with lower cars).

Tragically, you probably know of instances of loved ones who have been hurt or killed by motor vehicles.

This is the temptation factor that is an underlying cause to the traffic carnage we have been dulled to accept as a consequence of living with cars: we’ve created a network of side streets and quiet neighbourhood streets that are designed for vehicles driving in excess of 80 km/h.

When I worked as a tree planter, we had no issues with speeding when we were on the backroads. For one, there were no pedestrians or puppies to worry about. For two, the roads were definitely not designed for high speeds and we could only drive as fast as the road conditions allowed. Sometimes this meant we would crawl through dubious sections and other times we would have to add some extra horsepower to get through.

Streets Designed for Speeds

Take a look at most of our streets in Delta and you’ll see these features that suggest that we’ve made a series of bad decisions when it comes to our street designs.

  • Corners are rounded, not square to allow increased cornering speed and decrease the need for braking;
  • Drainage keeps puddles away from centreline;
  • Widths far wider than required for even our widest vehicles;
  • Pedestrians relegated to regulated crossings;
  • Pedestrians and cyclists expected to move off to the sides whenever a vehicle approaches;
  • Spontaneous use of streets for street hockey, bike jumps, neighbourhood parties, etc. forbidden or barely permitted;
  • Parked cars not allowed near corners so that sightlines aren’t blocked (paradoxically allowing you to drive into the intersection without having to come to a complete stop);
  • Crosswalks are marked with paint – not with raised sections of the roadway – so that speed isn’t hindered;
  • Posts and poles frequently are mounted on break-away mountings so that if a car leaves the roadsurface and strikes the post or pole, the damage to the driver is lessened because the obstacle will give way (pedestrians don’t have the luxury of having a break-away mounting)

All of these things allow for excessive speeds on neighbourhood streets. And it’s deadly, unnecessary, and contributing to the reluctance of Delta residents to make use of their streets for worry-free walking and cycling.

The folks over at Strong Towns perceptively explain what’s happened and what we should do about this:

The place for wide lanes and “forgiving design” is on a high-speed road. City streets, on the other hand, should be places for people. We know how to design streets that will slow down traffic automatically, without the need for heavy-handed enforcement, and regardless of what the speed limit sign says. We just need to do it.

So let’s stop tempting drivers with neighbourhoods designed to accomplish the same thing as an arterial road: to move cars quickly. When we design for expedited traffic movement, we design for speeds that easily exceed the posted speed limits.

46 A St in Ladner – the absence of complexity tempts drivers to increase their speed

Say it With Me: Let’s Design our Streets for Big Trucks

  • We should separate bicycles and pedestrians from the roads where trucks roam.
  • And to do that, we should prioritize every single pedestrian and cycling project for the sake of our big truck owners!
  • We should design new streets with more complexity, less width, and more psychologically-proven ways of helping us to drive slow.

I’ll come back in one more post with solutions to another of the problems that you face – finding a place to park your rig in Ladner Village. If you’re still reading, I want to tip you off that I also have a post coming on the aspect of this topic that I haven’t discussed yet – the freight trucks and tradespeople trucks that our local economy needs to prioritize!

Until then, please write to the Mayor and Council to ask them to do all they can to fix our streets for the sake of our big truck drivers (and the inhabitants of Ladner who enter into their roadspace).