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May 2015

Conversion of High and State Streets to Two Way Traffic

By | Our Position
To the City of Portland,
On behalf of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, I would like to offer the following comments for the record regarding the considered conversion of High and State Streets in Portland from one-way to two-way traffic. We believe that, all things considered, there are more benefits than drawbacks in the plan for all users, and we therefore support the conversion.
  • Regarding the impact of a conversion on motorized users, there is academic debate over the impact of one-to-two-way conversions on the level of service (LOS) for motorized traffic.* Based on our research, we do not find the argument that the LOS for cars would be negatively impacted a compelling reason against the conversion, as it is possible that some configurations would maintain or even improve LOS.
  • Regarding the impact of a conversion on non-motorized users, there are both benefits and drawbacks:
    •  Benefits for Bicyclists—better traffic flow and circulation, slower traffic, improved safety.
    • Benefits for Pedestrians—slower traffic, more stopped traffic, improved safety, improvements in economic activity and growth in the number of street level shops and services.
    • Drawbacks for Bicyclists– a one-to-two-way conversion means more potentially turning vehicles and thus more potential conflict zones. The loss of a lane of travel also means it is more difficult for motorists to change lanes to pass cyclists, which could increase “level of stress” (see http://www.ssti.us/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Draft-bike-ped-PMs-for- PWPBPP.pdf) on these roadways, especially on uphill segments.
    • Drawbacks for Pedestrians–two way travel means that a pedestrian now has to monitor vehicles moving in two directions.
  • We would recommend that if this conversion occurs, that SLMs and BMUFL signs be used to indicate to motorists that they should expect bicycles in the travel lanes.
  • We recommend the development and signing of preferred bicycle routes across the peninsula that may bypass the uphill legs of these roads in particular.
  • We recommend that the planning team consider banning left turns at all but the most critical intersections to improve traffic flow and reduce “left hook” conflict zones.Ultimately, we feel that the reduction in motor vehicle speeds as a result of the conversion will improve the overall liveability along these key corridors, and we therefore support the conversion concept.
    James Tassé
    Assistant Director
    ____________________________
    * See, for a study that highlights benefits, see Vikash Gayah’s study at http://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=1129060; for a less favorable analysis see http://nacto.org/docs/usdg/evaluating-urban-downtown-one-way-to-two-way_chiu.pdf.