Planning — April 2010

JAPA Best Article of 2009

Eric Dumbaugh and Robert Rae

"Safe Urban Form:
Revisiting the Relationship Between Community Design and Traffic Safety"

By Meghan Stromberg

In suburban communities, conventional design practice calls for disconnecting the local residential street network and relocating commercial uses to major arterial roads. While this practice may reduce neighborhood traffic volumes, the usual assumption that it is safer has not been sufficiently examined. That's the verdict of Eric Dumbaugh and Robert Rae in "Safe Urban Form: Revisiting the Relationship Between Community Design and Traffic Safety" — voted the best article published in the Journal of the American Planning Association in 2009. The article appeared in the Summer 2009 edition.

By reviewing the safety considerations that helped to shape conventional design practice and then analyzing GIS data on crash incidence and urban form, the authors found that there were more crashes and injuries on urban and suburban arterials than in high-density communities with traditional, pedestrian-scaled retail.

"Dumbaugh and Rae shatter myths about the safety of suburban road design and associated community design," noted JAPA's editor and associate editors, who judged the award competition. "Their paper is an excellent piece of research that reinforces the notion of evidence-based design."

Meghan Stromberg is Planning's senior editor.