Have no fear for road diets

Another Petaluma street could soon undergo a so-called road diet, a procedure that narrows the roadway from four to two lanes.

Petaluma Boulevard South from E Street to Crystal Lane is being eyed by city staff for this type of procedure, after similar work on Petaluma Boulevard North wrapped up in 2013.

A road diet is not unlike a human diet - people dread them, but in the end they are left with a product that is lean, svelte and performs better.

In the case of Petaluma Boulevard North, a city study found that traffic collisions were reduced after the road diet from 2.1 per month to 1.7 per month. And travel times on the stretch of street remained roughly the same.

Proponents of road diets say they have a calming effect on traffic, create space for bike lanes and make for a more pedestrian-friendly cityscape.

Those opposed to these projects point to the high volume of traffic on Petaluma Boulevard North during certain times of the day, and say the elimination of lanes has caused more traffic on smaller side streets.

Still road diets usually don’t cost the city any money and allow for some valuable paving work to get done. The city is able to access grants from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for repaving the horribly potholed streets. It is the MTC, which says the procedure is in line with modern urban planning practices, that requires the road diet in conjunction with the paving work.

Like with roundabouts, another controversial road project that can have great benefit to traffic and air quality, people tend to fear change. But when the change comes with several advantages, we should give it a chance.

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