Safety plans are an essential part of creating safer streets for people walking and bicycling — and a necessary step in qualifying for Safer Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) funding. But the goal of a safety plan is, of course, to get to the most important step: getting life-saving designs on the ground.
Every Toole Design staff member will tell you their favorite part of their work is seeing projects get built. Our process starts and ends with people: the people who deserve streets and paths that help them get where they’re going as comfortably, joyfully, and safely as possible.
Here are three of our recently built safety projects, ranging from full-scale street reconstruction to quick-build retrofits.
Inman Square, Cambridge: Designing for Human Error
Cambridge, MA, has established itself as a leader in implementing progressive pedestrian and bicycle design, and Toole Design has been proud to partner with the City on a variety of projects, including their 2020 Bike Plan Update. The influence of the updated Plan can be seen in a project to redesign Inman Square, which was completed in October 2023.
Inman Square is a thriving and busy neighborhood center that is dominated by a complex intersection; it’s also the place where two major bikeways in the city connect. In 2016 a person on a bicycle tragically lost their life here in a crash with a motor vehicle. Some deemed the crash “unavoidable,” since none of the involved parties had behaved recklessly or illegally. We know, however, that a Safe System Approach is one that accounts for human error and provides layers of protection to prevent such tragic outcomes.
The new design for Inman Square does just that. The City and the consulting team was able to apply City policies and renewed safety interest generated by the tragic crash to provide a simpler solution with more dedicated space for people walking, bicycling, using transit, and gathering. Check out the new protected bike lanes, intersections, and plaza in action in this video from our partners.
Lincoln Avenue, Milwaukee: Sliding into Action
Have you heard of the Milwaukee slide? It’s a dangerous maneuver where a driver uses the bike lane or parking lane to pass on the right, and it’s the source of many complaints among Milwaukee bicyclists. Getting a dangerous driving behavior named after you may not be the most flattering look for a city trying to improve road safety, but the City of Milwaukee knows that knowledge is power. Knowing where the problems are is an important first step in making streets safer.
As part of the Milwaukee Pedestrian Plan, which we completed for the City in 2019, we analyzed crash data to present a full picture of the most common crash locations involving pedestrians. The Pedestrian High Injury Network (HIN) we developed gave the City a powerful tool for prioritizing which corridors and intersections to address first.
The City launched into action, implementing 26 miles of pedestrian safety improvements on streets identified in the HIN. One of those streets is Lincoln Avenue — where the Toole Design Team developed designs for treatments including high visibility crosswalks, median crossing islands, curb extensions, and separated bike lanes. By using the quick-build techniques we recommended, the City was able to implement these features on a short timeline and at low cost.
Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica: A Phased Approach to Safety
The beauty of the quick-build is also at the heart of Santa Monica’s safety story. When Toole Design’s safety analysis of Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica revealed that 60% of fatal and severe crashes involved pedestrians, the City embraced a phased approach that would get designs in the ground quickly and therefore start saving pedestrian lives sooner.
That didn’t mean jumping to construction based on quantitative data alone, however. The project team made time for gathering valuable qualitative data through community engagement. We engaged with residents and local groups digitally and in-person, and enriched our understanding of where the corridor felt most dangerous and what measures would help ensure safe crossings.
Confident that our designs would meet the needs of local stakeholders and address the areas of concern we identified in our safety analysis, the Toole Design Team delivered phase one designs that the City could implement in a short span of time. Modifications including right-turn-only restrictions and paint-and-bollard curb extensions were installed this summer, with plans for more safety improvements down the road. By taking it one phase at a time, the City of Santa Monica is not only getting life-saving designs on the ground sooner for priority locations, but they’re also establishing a culture of safety that will continue to build over time.
We are energized by the dedication of these cities and so many of our municipal clients who are more committed than ever to taking action to improve roadway safety. As these three newly built projects show, the best safety projects are the ones that incorporate Safe System tenets, respond to local community concerns, and — most importantly — actually get built.