Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Cities Try Other Crosswalk Safety Plans

A Pedestrian Decoy in a Portland Intersection

USA Today reports on what other cities are doing to try and improve pedestrian safety, particularly in crosswalks. Below is the list of some of the innovative plans that are being tried throughout the country. Can you guess which one wasn't mentioned as part of the article?
  • In Portland, Ore., where 49% of pedestrian injuries occur in crosswalks, police conduct monthly crackdowns similar to drunken-driving stings. Police identify an intersection where pedestrians have complained about motorists. They post signs warning drivers of "crosswalk enforcement ahead" and have pedestrian decoys try to cross the street. "If the drivers don't stop, a line of police on motorcycles will pull them over," says April Bertelsen, the city's pedestrian coordinator. Portland also has an "I Brake for People" campaign to educate drivers.
  • St. Petersburg, Fla., partly attributes major reductions in pedestrian accidents to rapid-flashing signals that have raised the rate at which drivers yield to people in crosswalks to above 80% from about 8% at 18 marked intersections. The devices, which flash in an irregular pattern to alert drivers to pedestrians, will be field-tested next in Cambridge, Mass., Las Cruces, N.M., and Mundelein, Ill.
  • Los Angeles, CA., The LAPD is targeting pedestrians who break laws and cross against a flashing signal. Even when they can make it across the street before the light turns to "hard orange," tickets are given to pedestrians who violate the law.
  • Washington, where two women crossing Pennsylvania Avenue on a green light were killed last year by a city bus in a crosswalk, plans to add innovative signals developed by the city of Tucson at about 30 locations, says George Branyan, the city's pedestrian program coordinator.
  • Phoenix is replacing 1,000 traditional traffic lights with countdown-timer signals that tell people how many seconds they have to cross. The signals could cut pedestrian accidents by up to 25%, traffic engineering supervisor Michael Cynecki says. "The countdown is so self-explanatory even a third-grader can understand it," he says.
  • Denver, Knoxville, Tenn., and several other cities, have implemented a method in which all traffic at an intersection is stopped for about 30 seconds and pedestrians can cross in any direction.

So, which one of these is not like the others?


Neel said...

How about some street parking, so pedestrians are not crossing highways, but city streets. Cars are slower and more cautious of pedestrians, instead of speeding by curbs at 50 mph.

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Joe said...

Crosswalks at corners are generally not as safe as mid-way between corners because of turning traffic. Crosswalks at corners alone will not do the trick.

Slightly raised (1/4 inch) crosswalks have some potential, even at corners. Right now that sends us another visual cue to think about what we are doing when we turn.

Much like random flashing lights and painted crosswalks, we will become used to the raised crosswalks when they are widely implemented.