Showing posts with label Crosswalks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crosswalks. Show all posts

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure Costs

"But how much will it cost?"

Even with broad support for creating pedestrian-friendly environments, finding funding to implement infrastructure improvements like sidewalks or median islands nearly always presents a challenge. This new report from the UNC Highway Research Center, Costs for Pedestrian and Bicyclist Infrastructure Improvements, is a key resource for the first step in the funding process: figuring out how much money you need.

Using data from projects across the country, as well as interviews with planners and engineers implementing the projects, the report provides a broad set of information about costs for a variety of improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, including signals, striping, signs, traffic calming measures, bicycle parking, and more.

The information is presented in a series of tables outlining the median, average, minimum and maximum cost for each type of infrastructure. Here's an example of one table showing the cost of installing a crosswalk.

Click to enlarge
This is the first time I've seen a such broad cost summary in one report--typically planners are forced to rely on their own (sometimes limited) experience to come up with cost estimates, or conduct a more limited version of research the report authors have included here. Having all of this information available in one report is a valuable resource for anyone working on pedestrian or bicycle projects.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ins and Outs of In-Roadway Flashing Lights

Photo courtesy of Streetswiki

Driving through Santa Monica over the long weekend we encountered a pedestrian waiting at one of these--and a dilemma. Being the well-trained pedestrian-advocate's partner that he is, my husband slowed to stop for the pedestrian--just as the vehicle next to us sped up to catch the green light at the next intersection.

It got me thinking about the safety of in-roadway flashing lights, and the danger of crossing multi-lane roads. First, some info on the lights: they're a relatively new technology (the first was installed in Santa Rosa in 1993), and because of this we don't have a lot of good data on their long-term effectiveness. However, the folks at the PBIC have put together a useful summary of the available research. Some key points:
  • Some improvement in yielding to pedestrians has shown at most locations where in-roadway flashing lights have been installed, but it is not always dramatic or consistent across all conditions.
  • The effect of in-roadway flashing lights on vehicle speed is unclear. Some studies showed a reduction in vehicle speeds following treatment installation, while others showed no reduction or mixed results.
  • The two studies of in-roadway flashing lights at multi-lane roads also produced inconsistent results in terms of whether or not the treatment improves yielding to pedestrians, leading the PBIC to recommend that "caution should be exercised, and perhaps additional treatments implemented if [an in-roadway warning light system] is considered for uncontrolled crosswalks at multi-lane locations."

Monday, May 23, 2011

European Crossing Laws

A few months ago I posted about my experience walking in Munich, and my amazement at how drivers always stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the street. Turns out there's a strong legal incentive for that behavior in Germany, as well as in many other countries throughout Europe. With thanks to the folks on the America Walks listserve, here is a brief description of how pedestrian crossing laws in several European countries:

"At pedestrian crossings, vehicles other than railway vehicles must allow pedestrians and wheelchair users who visibly want to cross to use the crossing."(Highway Code 26) 

"Motor vehicle operators must yield to pedestrians and wheelchair users who are crossing at a zebra crossing or who appear to be about to do so."(Article 49, paragraph 2 of the Traffic Rules (RVV))

"Every motorist is obligated to yield, stopping if necessary, to a pedestrian regularly engaged in crossing a street or clearly manifesting the intention to do so ...." (This language was added in 2010, part of decree 2010-1390, Article 17)

Monday, April 25, 2011

A new twist on the marked crosswalk debate

You run across some odd stuff when you're wandering around the internet in search of pedestrian info. Take this Special Report from Project Consumer Justice, a site that describes it's purpose as to "honestly report on consumer, legal and political issues important to the American civil justice system."

The article details a $12 million settlement in a San Mateo lawsuit over a ped-vehicle crash that left a 17-year-old woman in a permanent vegetative state. The victim was struck while crossing at a marked crosswalk on a six-lane roadway. During the trial, lawyers for the victim cited Caltrans "dirty little secret" about "when marked crosswalks can be more dangerous for pedestrians." As evidence, they pointed to the infamous 1972 Herms Crosswalk Study, explaining how it proved that marked crosswalks gave pedestrians a "false sense of security."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Worldwide Walking: Munich

So does Munich really deserve the moniker of most walkable in the world?

Like Vienna, Munich is rife with pedestrian zones:
Pedestrian-only plazas:
And toucan crossings:
But like I said in my last post, I'm not as impressed by the walkability of cities that developed when the only real form of transportation was walking. Not to say they aren't great--just that it's a lot harder to create a walkable city after the fact, and cities that manage to do so deserve extra credit.

So while I appreciated everything that Munich had to offer in the way of walkability, I wasn't quite ready to call it the best in the world...until I discovered this:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey meets zebra (crossing)

image courtesy of

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Trouble in the Valley Continues

We've heard a lot in the last few weeks about the crashes that killed pedestrians Conor Lynch and Emely Aleman, but today I'd like to talk about another recent crash in the Valley that hasn't received quite as much attention. (Apparently--cue frustration and gnashing of teeth--it takes a child or two dying before people really start to take note of the challenges pedestrians face on the streets out there.)

Earlier this month Julia* was hit by a car while crossing the street at Ventura Blvd and Etiwanda Avenue with the signal and in the crosswalk. The crash sent her to the hospital for weeks, and although, unlike Lynch and Aleman, Julia survived her crash, she's facing a painful recovery (not to mention some painful battles with her insurance provider).

Some might be tempted to dismiss this incident, arguing (with a hint of fatalism) that there's not much that can be done about drivers who flagrantly break the law and run a red light. Perhaps. But let's take a closer look at that intersection, shall we?

Here's a picture of the northeast corner of the intersection, looking south across Ventura Boulevard.

For strarters, notice the crosswalk striping: two measly white lines. This may be considered the "standard" for crosswalk striping, but it's hardly going to get the attention of drivers zipping down Ventura Boulevard at 45 or 50 mph. And there's not even a median refuge to help pedestrians as they navigate seven lanes of traffic. I would argue that an intersection with this kind of traffic volume/speed requires a more extensive crossing treatment. Please, at least give the poor pedestrians a stop bar behind the crosswalk!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cool Ped Stuff # 9: Guerrilla Crosswalks

LA has DIY parking spaces and sharrows, Greece has Donkey Stickers, and as Treehugger reports Sao Paolo, Brazil now has its own band of guerrilla street improvers aimed at improving conditions for Brazilian pedestrians. Armed with white paint, they cleverly waited until no local traffic engineers would be paying attention (i.e. during World Cup games featuring Brazil) to paint crosswalks and "Slow Down" signs at dangerous intersections around the city.

I can almost feel the collective shudder as city attorneys simultaneously cringe at the liability issues this raises.

Photo courtesy Treehugger/Urban repair squad @ Apocalipse motorizado

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pedestrians in Canada Take Back The Streets

My toes turned green with envy when I came across this article in the Vancouver Sun about Victoria, BC's move to decriminalize jaywalking in its central business district. Midblock crossings are currently prohibited downtown, but after years of efforts to pedestrianize the area's streets, lawmakers see no reason to keep pedestrians from crossing wherever they see fit ("provided they make reasonable choices," of course).

Granted, Canadian walkers already have a leg up (so to speak) when it comes to crossing the street. Unlike here in California, where midblock crossings are only allowed when at least one of the nearest intersections is unsignalized,* Canada's Motor Vehicle Act allows peds to cross anywhere between intersections as long as they yield to vehicles.

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?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Perils of the Pedestrian Push Button

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about pedestrian push buttons. Okay, full disclosure? I’ve been thinking about pedestrian push buttons because a few weeks ago a police officer yelled at me for crossing against the “don’t walk” sign.

Yes, yes, I know this is bad behavior for a pedestrian advocate. But here’s the thing: I arrived at the intersection a mere second before the traffic light changed to green. Just as I reached for the button— *click* green light—and there I was stuck waiting through a full signal cycle, even though there was more than enough time for me to safely cross.

I feel there are other walkers out there who can empathize with this situation. They might even be asking, like me, “Why? WHY? must I push the crosswalk button every time or be stuck languishing at the edge of the sidewalk while the vehicles next to me whisk gleefully through the intersection?”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Bunny Fiasco

Angelenos have probably already heard about last week's controversy over Glendale's Easter-themed crosswalk sting, in which an officer dressed in a rabbit suit repeatedly crossed an unmarked crosswalk to see if drivers would yield to the "pedestrian" as required by law. The police department justified the decision to use the costume by explaining that such an unusual outfit would be more noticeable (clearly they should have read my post explaining that even funny outfits don't catch the eye of distracted drivers).

The sting earned the Glendale PD a lot of publicity...not to mention the ire of at least one city councilmember, who blasted it for being "dangerous" and a waste of city resources. It got me thinking about these types of operations (e.g. crosswalk stings, pedestrian marches, etc) and whether or not they actually advance the pedestrian cause.

We know that spot enforcement can be effective at reducing bad driver behavior like speeding--for a while. But improvements tend to dwindle rapidly once the officers pack up and move to another location. What does linger on, in my opinion at least, is the resentment and bad feelings towards pedestrians that the enforcement generates. Do you think that any of the 24 Glendale motorists who were cited because they failed to yield to a bunny are going to feel enthusiastic about pedestrian rights in the future? I suspect not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cool Pedestrian Stuff #4: Crosswalk Art

Adding a little visual interest to your otherwise uneventful crossing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Confession

I consider myself (this is not the confession) a pretty good driver. I hang out in the slow lane on the freeway, come to a complete stop at stop signs, have an only-normal-for-geeky-folk understanding of the California Vehicle Code, and above all I carefully yield to pedestrians in crosswalks...or do I?

After watching footage of a crosswalk sting in Sacramento (posted here on Streetsblog), I realized (this is the confession) I hadn't the slightest idea what "yielding to pedestrians" really meant. Had I been doing it wrong all these years? In an effort to alleviate my guilt--and perhaps bring a little enlightenment to others confused by this question--I did some research.

First, the law itself: California Vehicle Code 21950 states that "The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection."

People v. McLachlan (1939) clarifies that "yielding" doesn't necessarily mean stopping any time a pedestrian has a toe inside the crosswalk, " is clear that when a pedestrian crossing a roadway in a crosswalk is so far from the path of an approaching automobile and proceeding in such a manner that no interference between them is reasonably to be expected, the driver of the automobile need not wait for it to develop."

Moreover, once a pedestrian is walking away from a driver, the yielding point is moot, "It is equally clear that a driver, after having allowed a pedestrian to proceed undisturbed and unhurried in front of him and to reach a place safely out of the way of his automobile, with no apparent further danger of conflict between them, may proceed."

Just how far out of danger must pedestrians be before a vehicle can legally proceed through the crosswalk? People v. Hahn (1950) cautions that, "[the pedestrian's] right of way is not to be measured in fractions of an inch nor tested by split seconds. He is entitled not to just as much space as his body, clothes and buttons require, but to as much as will afford him a safe passage."

In other words, it might be okay to drive through a crosswalk if you give pedestrians ample berth--but whooshing past pedestrians so closely that their nosehairs flutter in the breeze isn't kosher. When in doubt, I suggest measuring according to this handy rule of thumb from the Hahn case, "The pedestrian's heart, as well as his body, should be free from attack."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

True or False Sense of Security?

A warning to Angelenos who travel on foot: LADOT is trying to kill you.

What other explanation is there for LADOT's policy not to mark crosswalks--and sometimes to even go so far as to remove them--in the name of "pedestrian safety"? It's like a doctor saying to a patient with cancer, "Well, this medicine isn't working. Let's just do nothing and hope the problem will go away."

To be fair, it isn't just LADOT that thinks this way. Ever since Bruce Herm's 1972 study of crosswalks in San Diego (in which he found more pedestrians were injured or killed in marked crosswalks than unmarked crosswalks) transportation departments across the country have been dutifully scrubbing out zebra stripes in an attempt to protect pedestrians.

The logic behind this seemingly illogical move is the so-called "false sense of security" argument. This much-quoted phrase comes from the Herms study, and represents his attempt to explain why marked crosswalks were riskier for pedestrians than unmarked crosswalks. Herms hypothesized that pedestrians felt so safe between those bright white lines that they threw caution to the wind and boldly stepped out into the road--only to be hit by motorists, who didn't care in the slightest whether the crosswalk was marked or not.

Despite the fact that this was mere speculation on Herms' part (his study wasn't intended to evaluate how carefully pedestrians crossed streets), the idea has become transportation dogma. You can even find it front and center on LADOT's pedestrian policy page, right after the part where we learn that "the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has found that pedestrian accidents are significantly reduced at unmarked crosswalks located at non-street intersections."

I have to wonder where LADOT is getting its data, given that one of the most comprehensive studies on crossing safety, published in 2005 by the FHWA , shows that there is no statistical difference in pedestrian crash rates between marked and unmarked crosswalks on two-lane roads. Not to mention a 2002 FHWA study that found "no evidence" that pedestrians are less vigilant in marked crosswalks.

Admittedly the evidence is not entirely clear-cut. Some recent research does show that pedestrians are less observant when crossing at marked crosswalks. Elderly pedestrians appear to be particularly at risk, as do crossers at high-volume, multi-lane intersections.

I don't dispute that in many cases marked crosswalks alone aren't adequate to protect pedestrians. Sometimes it takes median refuges, flashing lights, raised crossings, or one of the many other solutions have have been shown to increase pedestrian safety at crossings. But the suggestion that the solution to this problem is to remove marked crosswalks?? It really twists my shoelaces into knots. Pedestrians in Los Angeles--and everywhere else--deserve more sophisticated thinking from their policymakers.