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How Two-Way Streets Can Improve Cities

April 29, 2015

To improve the livability of neighborhoods, cities often turn to methods like building bike and pedestrian infrastructure or adding trees. However, one of the easiest and most affordable ways to improve cities might be to simply get rid of one-way streets. One-way streets became prevalent when cars were being introduced to the American public, as they were better suited to the higher speeds. A car would be able to travel faster along a wide one-way than a similarly wide two-way. But one-way streets might have done American cities more harm than good.

A study of 190 neighborhoods in Louisville shows that the risk of collision and injury in areas with many one-ways is about double that of areas with only two-way streets. Cyclists and pedestrians are also more likely to get injured on one-way streets. Not only that, property values in neighborhoods with one-way streets tend be lower–on average, they were half of what homes were worth in neighborhoods that didn’t have one-ways.

One way streets don’t only have higher rates of collisions and injury, they also seem to come with higher rates of crime and neglect. Streets that were converted into one-ways in the 1950s and 1960s seem to have deteriorated more so than two-way streets. It’s far easier to keep an eye out for law enforcement or flee on one-way streets. And because two-way streets are less conducive to high speeds, it is more likely that people passing by would see if a crime was taking place, making one-ways more desirable for breaking the law.

Of course, similar effects could also possibly be created on one-way streets. If the main cause of two-way streets being safer and less crime-ridden is slower speeds, then perhaps one-way streets can be made just as safe using traffic-calming methods.


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