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Snow Traffic-Calming Measures 6

Toronto traffic calming snow bump-out

Photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

Sometimes the best traffic engineering ideas are the ones that appear naturally. While visiting a client yesterday, I encountered this pile of snow that was blocking the entire right lane of this street (as you can see in the photo above).

The only traffic calming measure on this side street is a single pedestrian crosswalk, so it isn’t uncommon for motorists to drive faster than they should on a quiet side street like this one.

So it was refreshing to ride my bike up to the client’s office only to find drivers exhibiting extra caution on this street – since only 1 direction of traffic could pass the pile of snow at a time.

Residential streets in Toronto are normally littered with stop signs – which were primarily installed as traffic calming measures to slow down automobiles. But the traffic engineers took it too far and put stop signs everywhere, resulting in unnecessary constant stop-and-go traffic.

Using a “bump out” like this is a great way to slow down traffic without making everyone come to a complete stop when there is nobody else around.

It also keeps drivers more alert because they need to yield to on-coming traffic.

Toronto snow bump-out traffic calming measure

Toronto snow bump-out traffic calming measure

Photos by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country

The first thing that came to mind when I saw this snow pile was an article that my friend Mikael posted after visiting a small town in Denmark the other week. Except in Mikael’s case it wasn’t snow that was calming traffic, but rather a man-made bump-out that only allows one direction of traffic to proceed.

Here are two of Mikael’s photos from his article “Provincal – Bicycle Infrastructure”:



Photos © Mikael Colville-Andersen /

As you can see from Mikael’s photos, bicyclists are allowed to proceed past the bump-out, because as we all know there is no need to slow down bicyclists – bicycles aren’t built to go over 200km/h like automobiles are.

The snow bump-out I encountered also reminded me of this road surface usage analysis that results from snow – as discussed in an article last Friday by fellow bicycle blogger Gary L. Howe.


Photo courtesy of Gary L. Howe / My Wheels Are Turning

As you can see from Gary’s photo, there is plenty of space on this Michigan residential street to provide proper space for bicycles.

Perhaps they could also lose the stop signs by installing mini ‘round-abouts’ or even bump-outs with yield signs.

Bump-outs are a great way to slow down traffic without slapping down unnecessary stop signs every 50 metres – and they seem to work well when built properly.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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6 thoughts on “Snow Traffic-Calming Measures

  1. examinedspoke Mar 9,2011 5:19 am

    In a similar way, here’s a tree planted in the “middle” of a German road:

  2. Anonymous Mar 9,2011 3:28 pm

    That’s the way road narrowings should be made. And that works great for pedestrians too. They only have one lane to cross. Unlike pedestrian islands, there’s no dander of cyclists being squeezed by cars in the narrow point.

  3. Henry Mar 9,2011 6:24 pm

    Good post, James! They also noticed something similar with snow piles on StreetFilms

  4. Kam Mar 9,2011 8:12 pm

    I don’t cycle any more – but I’m a huuuge fan of bump-outs an roundabouts. Stopping vehicles unnecessarily – instead of merely slowing them down is very much more polluting than necessary.

  5. James D. Schwartz Mar 10,2011 12:57 am

    Agreed Kam. Stop signs encourage drivers to accelerate heavily to make up for lost time. That’s why I love speed humps too, because cars can keep flowing at a steady pace (and at a lower speed).

  6. Pingback: Roundabout Junctions: Efficient, Inexpensive ← The Urban Country

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