Are two-way streets better than one-way streets for safety — and real estate values?

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"One-way streets are all about speed," says The Atlantic's CityLab blog. As a result, turning one-way streets into two-way streets can make them safer, at least according to a new report. So should our city, which is teeming with one-ways, consider changing things up?

CityLab points to a recent study highlighting the many advantages of turning two one-way streets in Louisville into two-way streets. The first has to do with safety, and a decrease in traffic accidents. "In apparent real-world confirmation of theoretical traffic models, drivers seemed to accept the slower speeds in exchange for more direct access to their destination," CityLab writes.

Experts say crime also plummets on two-ways, specifically auto thefts and robberies, because cars are theoretically slower when they go in both directions, making getaways less speedy, and there's just more activity — and, consequently, more eyes — on these types of streets.

Equally important is how property values appeared to have increased on the newly created Louisville two-ways. "The source of the improvement here isn’t entirely clear, but the researchers suspect that people simply prefer to live on a street with slower traffic, less crime, and better mobility," writes CityLab.

Louisville's triumphs notwithstanding, NYC probably doesn't need to make its one-ways bi-directional, says Kate Slevin, vice president, Planning and Policy for the  Municipal Art Society. Our city may just be too big to do so, and have different challenges. "In smaller cities that don't have as many pedestrians, it's certainly nice to have slower streets. But if you have a two-way street you have more people turning left, and on a one-way street, fewer left turns," she explains. "In New York City — which is so densely populated — fewer turns tend to be safer. Two-way avenues can be more confusing for pedestrians."

Slevin says she understands why smaller towns would prefer two-way streets. "Two-way streets have a Main Street feel. And in most American streets, cars are moving too fast.  But New York is an outlier," she says.


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