A Breakdown of Traffic Calming Tools

Pay attention to these traffic calming techniques that may show up on a street near you!

Pittsburghers are now getting used to seeing speed humps pop up on their streets. While the effect of speed humps are obvious, there are other tools in the traffic engineer’s toolkit to also help slow vehicles to the speed limit.

Design guides such as the PennDOT Traffic Calming Handbook and the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide offer city planners and engineers a suite of interventions to help control the speed of vehicles, and ultimately increase the safety of our streets. There is no cookie-cutter approach to traffic calming, so it’s good to know about the features that, when applied in the appropriate context, can help create better places to live, walk, bike and drive.

Chicanes and Roadway Curvature

Chicanes are a horizontal treatment that reduces vehicle movement and narrows the roadway. They can be painted or include flex posts. This treatment slows vehicle speeds by diverting the path of travel. Certain designs may even increase the amount of sidewalk width, buffer width, or both.

More info about Chicanes


Median Crossing Islands

Median Crossing Islands narrow the roadway and protect crossing pedestrians and bicyclists by slowing motor vehicle speeds, increasing motor vehicle yielding, increase pedestrian visibility, provide a pedestrian waiting area, and allow for two-stage crossings for slower pedestrians. You can find Median Crossing Islands on 40th St, Dallas Ave, and Frankstown Ave.

More info about Median Crossing Islands and Mid-Block Crossings


Curb Extensions and Bulb Outs

Curb Extensions, also known as Bulb Outs or Bump Outs, work by: shortening the pedestrian crossing distance, increasing pedestrian comfort and visibility, narrowing the roadway to slow speeds, preventing cars from parking near the corners, and reducing vehicular turning speeds. Cities can use lower cost alternatives like bollards, flexible delineator posts, planters, paint or striping to create these extensions. Bump outs also serve to increase the size of the sidewalk. There are many Pittsburgh streets that have installed bump outs.

More info about Curb Extensions and Bulb Outs


Mini Traffic Circles

Mini traffic Circles work by reducing vehicle through speeds, eliminating left turn crashes, and reducing right turn speeds at low speed and low volume intersections. Introduced in 2021 onto Pittsburgh streets, these have been used effectively on such streets as Euclid Ave, Reynolds St, and Coral St.

More info about Mini Traffic Circles


Speed Table

Speed Tables are slightly different than Speed humps. Speed tables are mid-block pedestrian traffic calming devices that raise the entire wheelbase of a vehicle to reduce its traffic speed. Speed tables are longer than speed humps and are flat-topped, and unlike speed humps, are intended to accommodate pedestrians in addition to slowing vehicles. There are not many Speed Tables in Pittsburgh, but you can visit one on Living Pl at Bakery Square in East Liberty.

More info about Speed Tables


High Visibility Crosswalks

High Visibility Crosswalks improve the visibility of pedestrians to approaching motorists. They help reduce crashes between pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles.

More info about High Visibility Crosswalks here