This mysterious guide could pave the way for more human-friendly cities

There is a reason That stop sign in Sheboygan sounds like a stop sign in Seattle. There’s a reason the lanes of the road are divided with white and yellow signs in both places, too. There is also a reason, if the bike lane symbol engraved on the street is accompanied by a word, such as “slow”, Bicycle Always comes first. It goes back 862 pages, and it’s been around in one form or another for 85 years: The Handbook of Standardized Traffic Controllers.

The idea behind the guide is that for roads to be safe, they must be consistent, no matter where people are driving, walking or المشي scooter. The guide is a “visual representation of what the rules of the road are,” says Jeff Lindley, deputy executive director of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. It won’t tell you when to put a roundabout, but it will tell you the sign you need to help clueless drivers Navigating in a roundabout. “Bedtime reading is not really fun in the evening,” says Luke Schwartz, director of transportation in San Luis Obispo, California.

For transportation engineers, the guide is like a professional bible, which they consult weekly, if not daily. The interior is a mandatory combination Must be, maybe good shouldand “ok” miss. The Federal Highway Administration, the agency of the US Department of Transportation that has controlled what is in the manual since 1971, stresses that engineers should always use their professional judgment to determine if a particular road sign, lane markings, or bicycle stencil works in this situation.

Now the guide is getting its first update in 11 years. It has piqued critics who say it’s outdated and focuses too much on cars rather than people walking or on two wheels. Some city officials want the freedom to create traffic lights, signs, and street configurations that meet the needs of local roads, and diverse options — buses, mopeds, and mopeds — are now available to their residents. They want the flexibility to choose different bike path signs or install colored pedestrian paths, choices the guide does not support. (Federal officials issued heavily worded letters to cities including بما Saint LouisAnd the Ames, Iowa, And the Lexington, KentuckyEarlier this year, several progressive transfer groups launched an effort not only to modify the manual, but to reformulate and rewrite it.

Disagreement over a vague set of federal rules points to a larger trend in transportation planning: a renewed focus on making the streets fair, Climate consciousSafe for everyone, not just those in it cars.

Nationwide, safety statistics moving wrong way. Preliminary data collected by the Governors Highway Safety Association found a 4.8 percent increase in pedestrian deaths last year. Factor in the decline in driving due to the pandemic and the number getting more serious: a 21 percent increase in pedestrian deaths for every vehicle mile traveled. This is the biggest jump since the government began tracking these numbers in 1975.

This is the time to say: What should be the spirit of the document? And what should be the best way forward? says Zabi Bent, design director for the National Association of City Transportation Officials, a group representing city transportation departments in North America that is leading efforts to reformulate the guide.

The Federal Highway Administration released a draft of the proposed changes late last year. The last time the guide was updated, a few thousand people, mostly transportation professionals, provided feedback. This year, 26,000 comments poured in from across the country.

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