This mystery manual can pave the way for more humane cities

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There is a reason The Sheboygan stop sign looks like a Seattle stop sign. There is a reason why the road lanes are also separated by white and yellow markings in two places. There is another reason. If the bicycle lane symbol engraved on the street is accompanied by a word, such as “slow”, bicycle It will always come first. The reason is 862 pages long and has existed in one form or another for 85 years: a manual for unified traffic control equipment.

The idea behind this manual is to ensure road safety, no matter where people drive, walk or ScooterThe manual is “a visual representation of the rules of the road,” said Jeff Lindley, deputy executive director of the Society of Transportation Engineers.It will not tell you when to enter a roundabout, but it will tell you signs that need help for ignorant drivers Navigate a roundabout“This is not a really interesting bedtime book,” said Luke Schwartz, a traffic manager in San Luis Obispo, California.

For transportation engineers, the manual is similar to a professional bible, which they read every week or even every day.Compulsory mixing inside should, Should be good shouldAnd can do MetzThe Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has controlled the contents of the manual since 1971, insists that engineers should always use their professional judgment to determine whether a particular road sign, lane marking, or bicycle template is suitable for this situation.

Now, the manual will be updated for the first time in 11 years. This drew criticism, who said it was outdated and focused too much on cars instead of walking or two-wheeled people. Some city officials hope to freely create traffic signs, markings, and street configurations to cater to local roads and the various options now available to residents—buses, mopeds, and electric vehicles. They hope to be able to flexibly choose different bicycle lane markings or install colored crosswalks, these options are not approved by the manual. (Federal officials have sent severely worded letters to the city, including Saint louis, Ames, Iowa, with Lexington, Kentucky, Urging them to incorporate creative crosswalks into compliance. ) Earlier this year, several progressive transportation groups launched an effort not only to adjust the manual, but also to reformulate and rewrite it.

The controversy over a vague set of federal rules points to a larger trend in traffic planning: a renewed focus on making streets fair, Climate awareness, And it’s safe for everyone, not just those who are car.

National, safety statistics Moving Wrong wayPreliminary data collected by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association found that the number of pedestrian deaths increased by 4.8% last year. Due to the pandemic, driving factors have been reduced, and this number has become even more terrifying: the number of pedestrian deaths per mile traveled has increased by 21%. This is the largest increase since the government started tracking such numbers in 1975.

“It is time to say,’What should the spirit of the document be? What should be the best way forward?'” said Zabe Bent, design director of the National Association of Urban Transportation Officials, which represents the North American Urban Transportation Department and is taking the lead in reformulating the manual .

The Federal Highway Administration released a draft of the proposed changes at the end of last year. When the manual was last updated, several thousand people (mainly transportation professionals) submitted comments. This year, 26,000 comments from all over the country poured in.

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