Traffic Calming Animation of the Day: The Chicane

In the shortest, sweetest Streetfilm ever, a 24-second stop-motion animation, Elizabeth Press perfectly illustrates a chicane which is a sequence of bump-outs that force drivers to slow down and drive a more circuitous route along a straight, wide street. An added side benefit, chicanes also create more sidewalk space to be used for benches, tables, plantings and street furniture.

The word chicane comes from the German word schikane, meaning harassment.

Project for Public Spaces has more on chicanes and various other traffic calming techniques.

  • Eric

    Nice! I was half-expecting to see Wallace & Grommet make a cameo.

  • Another possible benefit: chicanes could aid in trash collection.


    Benjamin Miller: It would take a major rethinking of our parking arrangements– and perhaps of our union agreements for the number of workers per truck–but if the equivalent of one or two parking spaces, per apartment building, were reserved for sanitation collections for a few hours a few times a week, we might be able to dramatically reduce our rat population, our collection costs, and our worker injuries.

    And if we are going to think that expansively about how we might use our streetscape, we might go even further, to imagine a few parking spaces per building permanently turned into “eco-spaces,” with islands bulging into the streets to calm traffic, with plantings to absorb rainfall that would otherwise flow into the sewers and to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, perhaps with small-scale rat-proofed composting receptacles, or igloos for depositing recyclables, or …the mind reels.

  • Josh

    Cute video. I’d be a little nervous that people would just try to drive as fast as they’re accustomed to driving regardless of the curvature, though, and wind up getting in accidents.

  • Carrie m,

    What a great benefit to think about. Never have seen that!

  • flp

    indeed that is a sweet little video.

    it reminds me of w94th street between amsterdam and columbus, though the actual construction probably does not qualify as a chicane. go the following link, look at the street view, rotate to look east and click on the forward facing arrow to take a virtual tour:

  • flp
  • EWF

    Carrie & Clarence – I believe you sort of have that situation on 82nd St in Jackson Heights – curb extensions being used for amenities (I think they have benches & trash cans). Could be used for trash pickup as well.

  • Actually, I just realize I walk pass there almost every time in Queens.

    Thanks for pointing out. I haven’t seen the trash there yet but know the curb extensions you are referring to.


  • Angus Grieve-Smith
  • flp

    yup, that’s it! i dunno what happened to the link when i copied and pasted it (and i did use the “link to this page” button).

  • v

    another gem from epress.

  • Flp,

    That looks like a “neckdown” or “sidewalk extension” with a textured crosswalk right there, not a “chicane.” But thanks for pointing it out. I wonder how that particular street design came about.

  • flp

    yes, that definitely is the case at the corner/start of the block, but further down there is another narrowing of the street/widening of the sidewalk. do neckdowns by definition only apply to corners or also to the middle of a block?

  • Ian D

    But on really hot sunny days, does the chicane start to melt and get all squishy?


  • Reese Sumner

    Hmm – so applying this same philosophy to say… hardening of the arteries, we would have much improved patients if they just ate a pound or more of butter a day… because happy arteries (i.e. calmer) are clogged arteries.
    Have to bounce this off my GP during my next visit. (Maybe that’s why the waits are so long – he got “traffic calmed”).


Streetfilm: The Diverter

 From Streetfilms’ animation division comes the third installment of traffic-calming shorts from Elizabeth Press. First she brought you chicanes, then the raised crosswalk. Now comes the diverter, which Elizabeth explains like so: Diagonal diverters, half closures, entrance barriers, median barriers, semi-diverters; traffic calming techniques come in all shapes and sizes. They can help create more […]

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Judging by recent comments from some local pols, you’d think the addition of pedestrian spaces and bikeways in New York City has somehow thrown our streets out of whack. But what would our streets look like if we really did balance everyone’s needs and made them safe and functional for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists? In […]

Temporary Chicanes Calm Mr. Eckerson’s Neighborhood

StreetFilms’ Clarence Eckerson, Jr., shows how the alternate side dance can slow traffic. On alternate side of the street parking days, many communities in Brooklyn have worked out a deal so car owners are allowed to double park without impunity so the streets can get their weekly brushing. (Okay, let’s not touch that argument today.) […]

StreetFilm: Raising the Walk

From the StreetFilms animation division, which brought you the chicane, comes another instant classic, this one illustrating the benefits of the raised crosswalk — basically a wide speed hump with a crosswalk on top. Raised crosswalks have been recommended for areas including Hell’s Kitchen and the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, where speeding traffic and turn […]

Effective Traffic Calming Device: The Frisbee

From Sean Roche at the Newton Streets and Sidewalks blog: Want to slow traffic? Throw a frisbee across the street. That’s what six-year-old son of NS&S and I learned on Sunday. Please note that we did not throw the frisbee in front of traffic. We stopped throwing as soon as any car approached. But, our […]