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Visual friction is a term used in traffic calming to describe a feeling of narrowness.
Studies have shown that wider travel lanes allow for faster vehicular travel speeds. Conversely, drivers naturally go more slowly when navigating narrow travel lanes.
Removing excess width from existing travel lanes, without changing the number of lanes, has powerful traffic calming benefits. Visually narrowing travel lanes using paint, while leaving a shoulder that emergency vehicles or cyclists can utilize, effectively results in lower vehicle speeds and creates safe space for additional roadway users. Visual friction can be achieved by providing on-street parking on one, or both sides, or by adding bollards, planters, bike lanes, turning lanes, pedestrian refuge islands or expanded pedestrian space.
Ultimately, visual friction is an element of all traffic calming and effectively reduces opportunities for speeding and aggressive driving while organizing the roadway to provide clearer instruction to all mode users.
Visual friction is one of many traffic calming techniques and strategies being implemented and evaluated for their effectiveness to determine what work best for our City.