Optimizing Traffic Safety: Effective Implementation of Vertical Speed Control Elements for Neighborhood Streets

Optimizing Traffic Safety: Effective Implementation of Vertical Speed Control Elements for Neighborhood Streets


Traffic management has become an increasingly important aspect of urban development with the rapid growth of vehicular population. High-speed traffic, particularly in residential and neighborhood areas, poses significant safety threats to pedestrians and residents alike. It is in this context that this article brings to light the strategic importance of vertical speed control elements in managing traffic speeds and promoting pedestrian-friendly, safe speeds. Vertical speed control elements, as the name suggests, are devices designed to manage traffic speeds through physical vertical disruptions in the driving surface. They typically include speed humps, speed cushions, speed tables, and raised intersections or crosswalks, among others. These elements are purposefully designed to make a driver uncomfortable if they try to navigate over them at high speeds, thus compelling them to slow down. While these devices can be applied on a variety of street types, they find their greatest utility on neighborhood, residential, or low-speed streets where freight traffic is discouraged. By contributing to a reduction in speed, these vertical speed control elements play a pivotal role in ensuring a safer environment for both pedestrians and motorists. They help reduce the risk of accidents and create a more controlled and predictable traffic flow. The introduction of such devices in neighborhoods communicates a clear message to drivers that the streets they are driving on prioritize pedestrian safety and that high-speed driving is neither encouraged nor tolerated. However, it is important to note that the application of vertical speed control elements is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Their effectiveness highly depends on the specific conditions of the road where they are applied, including the target speed, operating speed, volume of traffic, and the presence of curbs, medians, or other traffic calming elements. Therefore, careful planning and strategic implementation are necessary to maximize their potential in managing traffic speeds effectively. In conclusion, vertical speed control elements have emerged as an effective tool in achieving safer and more pedestrian-friendly streets. Particularly in residential and low-speed streets, they play a crucial role in controlling traffic speeds and enhancing pedestrian safety. The forthcoming sections of this article will delve into the application of these devices, their design considerations, and their evaluation, shedding light on how to optimize their use for better traffic management.


Vertical speed control elements are a vital tool when traditional traffic calming measures prove insufficient in regulating driving speeds. Often employed where the desired speed of a roadway cannot be achieved through conventional means, these elements provide an alternative solution to manage traffic speeds. Traditional techniques would typically include the introduction of medians, narrowing of roadways or lanes, curb extensions, enforcement measures, or setting lower speed limits. Vertical speed control elements offer an additional layer of control, especially in areas that see heavy foot traffic, where safety is of utmost importance. The application of these traffic management devices is, however, not an arbitrary process. They are most effective when instated at a neighborhood level, as opposed to an individual street. The reason for this is twofold. First, implementing these elements on a broader scale allows for a more consistent and comprehensive traffic calming strategy, which in turn, leads to more effective outcomes. Second, the establishment of designated “Slow Zones” can discourage fast driving and lead to safer speed levels in residential areas, which are typically populated with pedestrians and cyclists. The ideal spacing of vertical speed control elements is a significant aspect that requires careful consideration. Without proper spacing, the effectiveness of these elements can be substantially reduced, leading to inconsistent speeds and potential safety risks. The specific profile of a street, in conjunction with other traffic calming measures such as horizontal or regulatory, determines the ideal spacing for these controls. Moreover, the spacing should be consistent and tailored according to the desired target speed, the operating speed of the road, the volume of traffic, the context of the area, and the overall number of driveways present. These factors enable a customized and efficient traffic calming strategy that addresses the unique needs of each neighborhood or street. Despite careful planning and implementation, the effectiveness of vertical speed control elements can sometimes be compromised. This occurrence is most commonly observed when drivers accelerate to unsafe speeds between the speed controls, leading to potential hazards and defeating the purpose of the measures. In such situations, a reevaluation of the spacing between these control elements becomes necessary to restore safety and order. In conclusion, the application of vertical speed control elements is a precise yet dynamic process. These elements, when effectively utilized, can tremendously enhance safety and reinforce pedestrian-friendly speeds. However, it is crucial to continually monitor and adjust their implementation to ensure their ongoing effectiveness in managing traffic speeds.

Design Considerations

In the implementation of vertical speed control elements, one key factor that must be given due consideration is the spacing of these devices. Maintaining consistent spacing is crucial for the effectiveness of these controls in managing traffic speeds. The consistency allows for a predictable traffic flow, enabling drivers to adjust their speeds accordingly. However, the spacing shouldn’t be a fixed figure, but rather, a dynamic measure that is tailored to each unique situation. The desired target speed and operating speed of the street, the volume of traffic, the specific context of the area and the overall number of driveways are factors that must be taken into account when determining the spacing for vertical speed control elements. For instance, streets with more driveways require closer spacing to ensure reasonable speed limits are adhered to. By adapting the spacing to these variables, the safety and efficiency of traffic movement can be optimized within the neighborhood.


The evaluation of vertical speed control elements is a critical aspect of ensuring their effectiveness in managing traffic speeds and promoting pedestrian safety. This process involves a comprehensive assessment of various factors, such as the prevailing speed of traffic, the frequency of accidents, and driver behavior. This analysis helps in identifying any shortcomings of the current setup, paving the way for necessary adjustments to optimize traffic safety. A key indicator of the effectiveness of vertical speed control elements is whether drivers are accelerating to unsafe speeds between speed controls. This can be determined by monitoring the average speed of vehicles at different points along the roadway. Speed sensors or radar guns can be deployed to record speeds, and the data collected can be analyzed to understand the pattern of speed variation. A significant increase in speeds between control elements may indicate that the current spacing is insufficient to maintain the desired target speed. Recognizing this potential issue, it is crucial to adjust the spacing of vertical speed controls when necessary. If data analysis reveals that drivers are accelerating to unsafe speeds between control elements, it is a clear signal that the current setup needs to be reevaluated. The revision may involve reducing the distance between the speed controls or adding more controls to ensure a consistent and safe speed is maintained. Another important aspect to consider during the evaluation process is the volume of traffic. If a street experiences a high volume of traffic, it might require closer spacing of vertical speed controls compared to a street with less traffic. The context of the street should also be taken into account – a residential street might have different speed control needs compared to a commercial one. The overall number of driveways is also a crucial factor in evaluating the effectiveness of these controls. Streets with numerous driveways might require more frequent speed control elements to ensure the safety of vehicles entering and exiting these driveways. This will prevent drivers from accelerating to high speeds in areas where other vehicles may be pulling out. In summary, the evaluation process of vertical speed control elements demands a meticulous and data-driven approach to ensure their effectiveness in achieving the desired speed control. It is a continuous process, with the need for regular monitoring and adjustments to meet changing circumstances. By doing so, neighborhoods can succeed in creating safer streets for both drivers and pedestrians.


The effective implementation of vertical speed control elements is a powerful tool in fostering safer, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. This article has discussed the importance of these elements and their role in reinforcing and managing traffic speeds on neighborhood, residential, or low-speed streets where heavy traffic is generally discouraged. The overarching goal of these vertical speed control elements is to create a residential environment where the residents, especially children, can feel safe. Engaging with the community at a neighborhood level is pivotal in successfully implementing these traffic calming measures. The community becomes empowered to actively participate in the creation of a safer environment for all its inhabitants. This communal consensus aids in the overall acceptance and effectiveness of these elements. Furthermore, the establishment of designated “Slow Zones” ensures a coordinated and comprehensive approach to traffic calming, channeling traffic in the most effective manner to achieve the desired target speed. The centerpiece of this approach is the adequate and strategic spacing of vertical speed control elements. It is crucial to maintain consistency in this spacing, but also remain flexible to adjustments based on the unique profile of each street. Factors like the desired target speed, operating speed of the road, volume, context, and the overall number of driveways all play a vital role in determining this spacing. This dynamic consideration ensures the optimum functioning of the implemented vertical speed control elements. Evaluating the effectiveness of these elements is a continuous process. It involves observing if drivers are accelerating to unsafe speeds between speed controls, which could indicate a need for reevaluation of the implemented spacing. The ultimate goal is to strike a balance between allowing the smooth flow of traffic while ensuring that speeds remain within safe limits for pedestrians and residents. In conclusion, the introduction of vertical speed control elements in a neighborhood can significantly enhance road safety and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment. This methodological and community-driven approach ensures that these elements are effective and that they meet the specific needs of each neighborhood. Reevaluation and ongoing assessment are crucial to maintaining the relevance and effectiveness of these elements, with the ultimate goal remaining the safety and well-being of all road users. The impact of these elements extends beyond traffic management to create a more harmonious and safe living environment for everyone.