Monday, July 19, 2010

Pedestrian Crossing Primer

For those under the misimpression that crosswalks are just two white lines across the street,  check out this critter-inspired post from The City Fix for a thorough explanation of the myriad of crossing options available to pedestrians these days:

 Zebras, Puffins, Pelicans or Hawks for Pedestrians?


  1. That's a great link -- thank you!

    Speaking of, why is the crosswalk at Victoria and Albion unmarked? People cross Victoria there to get to Poinsettia Elementary.

  2. Any time!

    I can't speak specifically for the Victoria/Albion location, but I do know that historically traffic engineers have had a bias against marking crosswalks--particularly at unsignalized intersections.

    The logic comes from a 1970s study that seemed to suggest marking crosswalks made them more dangerous. It's actually a lot more complicated than that (more details in this post:, and fortunately traffic engineers are moving away from the old anti-crosswalk bias--particularly in locations with a high number of pedestrian crossings. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting in touch with the right people in the traffic engineering department to request that a crosswalk be installed...

  3. I know the CA MUTCD says, "Crosswalks should be marked at all intersections on established routes to school where there is substantial conflict..." and that certainly seems the case at Albion: the crosswalk ends on school property, at the front of the school. I know the city would rather have people park elsewhere, or walk to the nearest signal, but many don't. Add to it the lack of enforcement of the school zone speed limit and there are too many close calls at this unmarked crosswalk.

    If the policy is to protect pedestrian safety, the solution wouldn't be to leave the crosswalk unmarked, but to mark it in yellow, put up the appropriate signs, and add a flashing beacon when the budget allows.

    How do I get in touch with "the right people?"

  4. Mike--
    Each municipality is organized a little differently when it comes to these things (and sadly I'm not too familiar with the City of Ventura's specific workings), but here is what I would suggest.

    1. Contact the person in charge of Traffic Signals/Striping in the Public Works department ( Find out from them--or another appropriate person in the dept--if there is a plan already in place to install a crosswalk at the intersection (maybe they've considered it already?) or a procedure for you to formally request the installation of a crosswalk. That may be enough to get the ball rolling, but even so you may want to also...

    2. Contact the school, and find out if they have been working on this issue. Even if they haven't, they may be supportive of the idea, which will help your case when you...

    3. Contact your Councilmember or the councilmember for the district in which the school is located. (If their webpage identifies a staff person devoted to transportation policy, you could also contact that person directly.) Council offices are great at helping you navigate a city's seemingly impenetrable bureaucracy and cutting through red tape.

    I know this sounds like a lot of work just to make a simple request, but--sadly--such is the nature of local government. The good news is that by doing all this you will be forging relationships and making contacts within the system, and that will make things a lot easier the *next* time you find a street that needs a crosswalk.

  5. Thank you so much for all the direction!

    I know the school & PTO have requested it at least a couple times in the past twenty years. There also are a few associated issues which need to be addressed with the PD, beyond the speeding I mentioned.

    Unfortunately, our council members are elected at large -- and not one lives in the eastern two-thirds of the city. On the other hand, I've already started developing relationships through our Campus View Neighbors association.

    Again, thanks. I like to know as much as I can before I go in to talk to a decision maker. It seems like every time I approach our local government somebody tries to buffalo me.

  6. Good luck with your efforts, and let us know how it goes!