The Pryor Times

October 10, 2013

Planner suggests a ‘road diet’

Staff Writer
Susan Wagoner

PRYOR, OK — City leaders and residents were in attendance on Oct. 1, when an acclaimed authority on walkable and livable communities spoke on the subject. The community-wide free event was held at the Hershel Avra Performing Arts Center.

Dan Burden, an internationally recognized authority on walkability, bicycle and pedestrian programs, outlined a vision for Pryor that includes what Burden calls a “road diet.”

In 1999, Burden and Peter Lagerwey coined the term “road diet” to explain road conversion measured to “right-size” travel lanes and to remove excess lanes from streets.

The result is that the reduction of the number of lanes and/or lane widths allows the roadway space to be reallocated for other uses such as bike lanes, pedestrian crossing islands, buffered sidewalks and/or parking, according to information provided by Burden.

“Activity in kids will help them in school,” Burden said. “Kids that walk or bike to school have fewer sick days.”

Burden joined city leaders for a walking audit of Pryor before the presentation.

“As a nation, we’re building communities where walking is left out,” he said. “Communities are built around auto transportation.”

Burden presented several slides of other communities that have adopted a “road diet” approach to city planning and the end results were multi-purpose roadways that encourage choice in transportation.

“A road died reallocates the existing right-of-way to better support all modes of transportation: pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, transit and freight / delivery,” According to Walkable and livable Communities Institute. “When converting a four lane roadway to three, a road will have one vehicle travel lane in each direction. This allows a prudent driver to set the prevailing speed for all cars following that driver. On-street parking and comfortably wide bike lanes create buffers of two kinds - between motorists and the edge of the road, and between pedestrians and moving traffic. The center lane can be used for left turns, to allow emergency responders to pass, for pedestrian refuge crossing islands or for delivery bays.”

Burden discovered in his walking audit of Pryor that there are things such as sidewalks already available which he called a positive. But much more can be done.

“I believe Pryor can be a model for the entire state, if not the entire region,” Burden said.

Change doesn’t happen without a pricetag, however, so city leaders and planners have their work cut out for them.

“How do we get the health back in our children?” Burden asked and answered. “Walking is the greatest prescription anyone could ever write for basic health.”

To find out more about “road diets”, log onto www.pps.org/reference/rightsizing/