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Kalamazoo's traffic engineer says serious crashes have fallen on streets with new "calming" measures

Curb-like low concrete barriers and reflective posts on top of the barriers, separate a concrete path from a black-top roadway with a large white and teal semi truck passing and an intersection in the distance
Sehvilla Mann
The city added a new pedestrian-bicyclist pathway along Stadium Drive near Western Michigan University's campus in 2022, as seen in this October 13, 2022 photo.

In an interview with WMUK, Randolph also said he hopes to retime some signals over the summer to improve traffic flow.

According to City of Kalamazoo Traffic Engineer Dennis Randolph, crashes with injuries have gone down 11 percent on streets where the city’s taken steps over the last two years to calm traffic.

Randolph said that's promising for the city’s effort to reduce reckless driving on several major streets.

He added that some residents have questioned the safety of one strategy: converting a vehicle lane to a bike lane on parts of Park Street and Westnedge Avenue.

"But I’ll tell you, I’ve been monitoring over the last year and – especially on Park and Westnedge, we haven’t seen anything at all in terms of increased bicycle or pedestrian crashes," Randolph said.

"Some folks look at our traffic-calming as making the streets more dangerous," he added. "And at least from the data we’re looking at, that isn’t the case. Not as a whole, for the city."

The city's Imagine Kalamazoo planning project says drivers tend to drive more cautiously on streets with a bike lane, and that having fewer, narrower vehicle lanes discourages speeding.

Randolph emphasized that the measures have only been in place for one to two years and that he'll need more data before he can make conclusions about how well they are working. But he called the early numbers encouraging.

Retiming lights

One way to nudge people to drive the speed limit is to reward them with more green lights. Randolph said retiming traffic lights to discourage speeding is a long- and short-term project for the City of Kalamazoo.

The longer project is to study and refine signals downtown as part of Kalamazoo's multiyear plan to overhaul several major streets. But Randolph says he hopes to “tune up” some lights near Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University’s main campus by the fall.

He added that to reap the benefits, on a street where the limit is 30 miles an hour, "You really have to go 30 miles an hour. If you go 35 or 40, you’ll get a red light."

Randolph said the initial changes may not make a big difference. But he added that they’ll help the city start to figure out what it needs to do to improve traffic flow on those streets.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. She covered those topics and more in eight years of reporting for the Station, before becoming news director in 2022.