It's Official - The FHWA wants more "Road Diets".   It's Official - The FHWA wants more "Road Diets".


From Steve Clark, Bicycling and Walking Program Manager

Take a 4-lane road such as Riverside Ave in Minneapolis, or Douglas Drive in Golden Valley, and restripe it to 3 lanes to allow space for bike lanes and what can you expect to get? A 29 percent reduction in crashes for all road users! 

Using that finding, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced that "road diets" are now part of the "Proven Safety Countermeasures" that they encourage road managers to implement. The FHWA advises that by adding pedestrian and bicycle facilities, community stakeholders will be more likely to support these 4-3 conversions.

How they work:  4 lane, undivided highways have a poor safety record, largely due to drivers switching lanes to optimize their speed of travel. They also present difficulty to pedestrians trying to cross the road, due to the multiple threat (one vehicle stops for a pedestrian in a travel lane on a multi-lane road, but the motorist in the next lane does not).  By limiting the road to just one through lane in each direction and turning a center lane into a two-way shared left-turning lane, crossings become simpler, speed limit compliance increases, and there's a dramatic decrease in rear-end and side-swipe crashes.  Moreover, the extra space that results from the removal of a travel lane, can get you bike lanes on both sides of the street!

Photo credit: Dan Burden

See also this video about Road Diets featuring 10th Ave SE in Minneapolis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6pA8pwOMts&feature=youtu.be

The exciting thing about the new FHWA recommendation is the recognition that even roadways with 20,000 motor vehicles a day "may be good candidates for a road diet," providing both "multiple safety and operational benefits" for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.  (Unfortunately, in Minnesota, state aid roads with projected traffic volumes of 15,000 or more vehicles a day must have 4 lanes or more unless a variance is obtained.)

BWTC has been encouraging road diets as a low cost method to create space for bicyclists and improve pedestrian safety since the program began in 2006.  Many of the projects we funded in Minneapolis consisted of this type of treatment, and we were especially proud of being instrumental in helping Golden Valley demonstrate that even in suburban locations with higher speeds these treatments can benefit everyone.  Douglas Drive is a great example of how a road diet can transform the public space.

Why low cost?  Because when a street is being resurfaced, all existing markings are obliterated.  Except for new engineering drawings necessary for contractors to follow, the cost of markings is nearly the same whether it's 3 lanes with bike lanes or 4 lanes without. The curb to curb pavement remains the same.

Which roads in the Twin Cities are currently 4 lanes and have 20,000 vehicles or fewer and should be considered for "road diets"?  Here are my top 10 in Minneapolis, 8 in Saint Paul and 1 in St. Louis Park.


Central Ave NE (11,000-19,400 vehicles per day) 

East Lake Street (12,400-13,500)

West Broadway (9,400 - 17,900)

Broadway St. NE (12,800-18,800)

Osseo Road (10,300; 17,000 outside of Mpls - in Brooklyn Center)

 West Franklin Ave (14,800-19,500)

University Ave NE (12,500)

Hennepin Ave SE (7,400-15,200)

Lowry Ave NE (13,800)

Cedar Ave (11,800 - 21,300; 16,100 from I-94 to 7 corners west bank)


Hamline Ave (7,500-15,100)

Cretin Ave, south of Marshall ( 12,700-17,400)

 Dale Street, south of I-94 (7,600- 16,900)

 University Ave., Snelling to Cretin (19,400-20,200

 Maryland Ave, W. of 35E (9,200-18,800)

 Snelling Ave, S. Montreal to Randolph (13,200 -18,100)

 Rice Street (15,400)

 White Bear Ave, St. Paul, I-94 to Larpenteur (18,000 - 19,400)


 Beltline Blvd (10,100-14,000)

NOTE:  Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) has been falling on most roads in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area!  2010 figures show a decline from 2008, which showed a decline from previous years. Perhaps we can expect more candidates for 4-3 conversions as this trend continues?  For example, in 2008 Hennepin Ave SE (a county road) had an AADT of 19,700 just west of Stinson Blvd., and over 20,000 east of Stinson.  Two years later the AADT is 13,100 west of Stinson and never gets over 15,200 east of Stinson.  What once was a street that might have been a stretch for a road diet, is now what some traffic engineers would call a "no-brainer" - an obvious stretch for a diet.

This is good news because what it means is that we can get Complete Streets by doing more with less.  Everybody wins!

Create your own wish list.  To find out the ADTs (average daily traffic) in your community (2010 data), go to this link, courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation:


For all of Minnesota cities (but only updated to 2008) use this link:


And to view all of FHWA's "proven countermeasures" to reduce crashes visit: