Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Too Dangerous to Walk Across?

The above diagnosis would be a real problem for a "crosswalk" since their primary purpose for existing is to faciliate the safe pedestrian crossing of busy roads.

What happens though when the crosswalk and the street are not considered in a big picture way?

Here's one real world example:

It’s obviously hard to pin down a percentage since when the traffic is heavy and speeds are high, it’s difficult to say which motorists would be required to stop under Florida’s ambiguous law.  Next time we should put markers at the reasonable stopping distance for the 45 MPH speed limit which could help.  But even then it might be difficult to determine whether a driver really should have been required to stop or not.  When a platoon of cars comes by the leaders are usually so close together that if one stopped there would almost inevitably be a chain reaction set of rear end collisions.  The person looking to cross is so intent on watching that drivers don’t run into him/her that it’s hard to be able at the same time to judge who should have stopped or not.  (More good reasons for a look at the basic structure of our traffic laws.)

All that being said, I have to say that when presented with reasonable conditions to stop, about half of the drivers did.  However, if you include cars streaming by at 45 MPH bumper to bumper, the percentage drops dramatically to around 15%.  Many drivers switched lanes to avoid having to stop.  One driver tried to switch lanes when the car in front of him slowed down to stop, only to find the driver in the other lane was stopping also.  He had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.  (I jumped back big time!)

The 45 MPH speed is a big, big issue.  If traffic were slower, many more motorists would be willing to yield since they wouldn’t be as afraid of being rear-ended.  I understand FDOT’s concern about placing crosswalks on higher speed roads.  The solution, however, is very simple; lower the design speed and speed limits in pedestrian areas.  The right to build high-speed arterials through pedestrian-active urban areas needs to be revoked.

Granted, this is anecdotal but it nevertheless provides an example of the challenges faced when two normally complementary and compatible land use tools (in this case, roads and crosswalks) are mixed together in an incompatible manner. 

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.


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