Urban buses and areas with traffic calming elements
Carefully consider the impact of street design and traffic calming on bus operations.
Usually traffic calming elements affect buses more than cars. Traffic calming elements can also make the ride uncomfortable for bus passengers and bus drivers. But there are several types of traffic calming element that studies have shown have an equal effect on buses and cars.
Good examples of traffic calming elements that can be used in areas where urban buses operate are:
The H-bump. A speed reducing bump that looks like an ‘H’ from above . The bump makes use of the fact that buses and cars have different width between their tracks. The Public authorities in Skåne, Sweden advise that the longer ramps (for buses) make the speed reduction more comparable between buses and cars. (e.g. Lomma, Sweden)
The road hole / cave is like an upside-down speed bump, over which buses can travel astride, which makes them easy to pass. Cars, on the other hand, have to drive down through the hole / cave.
The speed pillow is one kind of speed bump that buses can travel astride but which cars have to mount. The measure of length is important and has to be adapted to the local bus fleet.
Shorter narrowing of the street helps to promote a more careful driving behaviour. As long as the lane is straight without any heavy turns, this traffic calming element does not cause buses any problems.
The bus cape can serve as a traffic calming element if there is only one lane in each direction. When the buses enter the bus cape, all other traffic in the same direction has to stop and wait.
Bus stops situated opposite each other may serve as a traffic calming element because there is usually only one lane between the two bus stops that traffic in both directions has to share. The approach is only effective if car drivers accept it. If not properly communicated, or not fully accepted by the local community, it can lead to frustration and an anti-public transport sentiment.
There is a general conflict between traffic calming for private cars and urban bus planning. Where driving is on the right-hand side the general idea is to avoid “priority to the right” in residential areas along the bus routes because it forces the bus to potentially stop at all junctions and it is bad for travel speed and for the passengers’ comfort (similarly, where driving is on the left, “priority to the left” in residential areas is to be avoided). Other conflicts to avoid, which often occur where maximum speeds are 30 km/h, are parking along the street, speed bumps or narrowing of the road. However, there are often very creative solutions in operation to avoid any conflicts, as described above.
It is almost impossible to ensure both high-speed public transport and traffic calming of private cars at the same time. Various experiments with, e.g., special speed bumps designed to facilitate bus passage have not yet shown real success.
Graz (Austria): Roads with bus operation, where none existed before, are often made priority roads and traffic calming elements are abandoned.
Landskrona (Sweden): The right-of-way in intersections was changed with a new trolley bus route in Landskrona. Now the bus route is along the main road, where bus priorities have been introduced.
Rheine (Germany): Some junctions in residential areas were reorganised to improve the urban bus service (changing priority to the right into priority in the direction of the bus route) before the improved urban bus system was launched in 1997.