Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pedestrain Friendly Streets

How often do you try to cross some of our streets here in the Salt Lake region? If the answer is even infrequently you know the dangers that lurk in our crosswalks. First of all you face the right turn drivers that do not pay attention if there is any pedestrians in the street, and then you face making it all the way across our wide streets without getting hit by left turning drivers or right turning drivers.

To make things worse, while the signal cycles are even tight for someone like me who can walk fast, the cycles are deadly for a senior citizen or anyone else who can't walk fast. As our population ages this will become an even greater issue.

Sadly it seems that most of the street planners feel that if they slap some haphazard sidewalks along side the street and place your token crosswalks they are set. The sad truth is that most of the people designing our roads have no idea how to design things for pedestrians. Our streets are designed for cars and that is it.

Now take a look at the picture of State Street. How can it be made safer for pedestrians to cross? First of all because of the extreme width of our roads there needs to be pedestrian medians installed in the center of the road. This will allow slower people to make it half way without taking their life into their own hands by having to make it all the way. In the median you would have additional pedestrian lights and the push to walk buttons were appropriate.

More pedestrian friendly cities have these so called "pedestrian medians" or "escape zones" even on narrow streets with one or two lanes in each direction. It is an extra measure of safety to protect pedestrians.

Another element of safety will be flashing lights at the corner warning drivers to check for pedestrians. Some would argue that this would detract drivers even more, but with drivers being too busy talking on their cell phones, listening to their i-pods, doing their makeup and everything else they do in cars these days, pedestrians need every element of safety protection possible.

We need to rethink the way we design our streets.


Anonymous said...

I don't mean to leave an Anonymous comment but blogspot doesn't like me and won't ever let me log in. Thanks for allowing Anonymous posts in the alternative.

That said, in response to your article, we all first need to decide if we're going to be "pedestrian friendly" or "auto friendly". As you're probably aware, Rocky complained and complained throughout his administration about getting the traffic to flow without having to stop at consecutive intersections. It's wasteful, frustrating and time consuming to have to stop at each light on a straight path.

Nevertheless, the SLC Traffic Department - without further instructions - found it impossible to do since SLC had long since decided to be "pedestrian friendly" and allow any pedestrians to push the button when they want to cross the street. This would always throw off the lights timing and the repercussion would be felt along the whole way. In no time, all the lights are out of whack.

While I agree with the wish for more "pedestrian friendly" streets, I would opt for making some streets designated as such and some focussed on moving traffic flow. In the latter, SLC should not pedestrians to upset the timing of the whole system just so they can cross the street more quickly.

JMD said...

I respectively have to disagree with you. It is pedestrian friendliness that creates a vibrant community. If people cannot cross the street they will not and then you loose the pedestrian elements, you start loosing you small store retailers and the area dies.
From my observations the push buttons are only used during late night hours. I never have to "push the button" during the day.
By the way with pedestrian escape zones you do not have to have the light cycles go so long. While you still want enough time for a senior citizen to cross half way across.
If senior citizens are afraid to cross the street they won't. That limits their freedom and either makes them drive which many shouldn't or locks them in.

JMD said...

Just a little follow up. Salt Lake City is in no way shape or form a pedestrian friendly town except in certain limited areas. Beyond that the pedestrian is an afterthought.