May 11, 2011

By one count, nearly one in five crashes on city streets is related to driveways. Despite this, driveway design has attracted little attention in transportation circles until recently.

Jim Gattis wants to change this. Gattis, a University of Arkansas engineering professor, shares some of the lessons of his research in a visit to Oregon May 16 and 17 as an OTREC visiting scholar.

While the needs of different road users sometimes conflict, a smart design often can accommodate all users without much, or any, inconvenience. “If you look to design guidelines years ago, they were assessed solely from the needs of automobile drivers,” Gattis said. “But pedestrians and bicyclists also have to cross driveways. And pedestrians with disabilities of sight, or who are in wheelchairs, have their own problems, many of which can be easily remedied with alternative practices that are no more onerous to design or construct.”

No one sets out to design a bad driveway. “I would guess that somebody just didn’t think about it; it didn’t cross anyone’s mind,” Gattis said. "Design practices that make the roadway easier for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to navigate fall into the category of observing how traffic operates and applying common sense to it.”

Gattis himself hadn’t always considered...

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