Build better roads

Re. Troy Gangl's letter Bad drivers abound and Norberto Rodriguez's letter Use public transit more (both Castanet, March 20)

Mr. Gangl and Mr. Rodriguez have both brought up some really good points about our transportation problems in Kelowna.

Indeed, dangerous driving is a big problem in Kelowna. And yes, we need better public transit use.

Even advocates of the good stuff can miss some key points, however.

Both the writers lean on a common myth, namely that smaller roads are more dangerous for all users. This is actually false.

It seems counterintuitive, but smaller, complex streets are actually much safer for all road users for a simple reason—drivers slow down. Force equals weight times velocity. For every ~15 km/h increase in speed, the chance of death resulting from a crash doubles, according to EMC Insurance.

I, and many other advocates of urbanism, believe the solution to the safety issue lies in street design. Speed limit signs are mostly ineffective when the street design doesn’t match them.

Just think of Harvey Avenue (Highway 97 through Kelowna). When it’s empty, how fast do you feel comfortable driving? With all that space, going 60 km/h feels slow, and you will speed up.

In contrast, driving down Pandosy Street on a busy summer afternoon with many pedestrians, cyclists and drivers about, the speed limit of 50 km/h would feel a bit fast. That is because the complexity of the street environment makes drivers less comfortable and they tend to slow down as a result.

Decreasing speed on our streets is also overdue. Most of our speed limits were developed before the onset of SUVs and electric vehicles, which are heavier. If you remember that force = weight x velocity, extra weight acts like a multiplier on the death-equation.

The days of building wide roads that make drivers feel relaxed and comfortable are over. Instead, we must build streets that make it impossible for a driver‘s brain to feel like speeding.

Spencer Lupul

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