All Walks DC calls for removal of unsignalized crosswalks
I republished this entry because I added some photos and text at the end.
All Walks DC is a pedestrian advocacy group in the city. According to the Northwest Current, the group is suggesting that unsignalized crosswalks ought to be eliminated since they encourage pedestrians to be overconfident crossing the street. From "Residents call for solutions after crashes" (6/24/2015, page 1):
All Walks DC, a group that advocates for pedestrian rights, wants all crosswalks in the city without traffic signals to be studied and considered for removal. D.C. Department of Transportation officials say these crosswalks can give pedestrians a false sense of security, because even though drivers are required to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk they often don’t do so.This recommendation was made after two fatal accidents on Wisconsin Avenue NW a couple weeks ago.
Connecticut Avenue NW. Google image.
While I understand the desire, I think it's a misguided recommendation.
People are going to cross the street with or without a marked crosswalk, especially at intersections.
Lack of markings will only encourage motor vehicle operators to ignore pedestrians more.
It's better to direct pedestrian crossings to defined locations, where additional treatments can be provided. AND to provide improvements to pedestrian crossings.
PEDSAFE, the Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System, an FHWA publication that is used to analyze pedestrian accidents with the aim of making physical improvements, focused on improving safety, when the analysis indicates that road and traffic engineering elements contributed to the accident.
Arterials in Upper Northwest DC are problematic because the roads tend to be wide and if not framed by taller buildings (for DC), the buildings are set back a fair distance from the road and the areas aren't replete with pedestrians.
This creates a kind of tunnel or alley effect, encouraging fast driving.
The problem is accentuated because outside of the core of the city, where there are fewer pedestrians generally, most drivers fail to realize that when one car stops in a lane on the street near a crosswalk, it's not because the driver is acting stupid, but because there is a pedestrian crossing the street.
Drivers in all the lanes should stop when a car stops in one of the lanes, but we haven't built into our mental frameworks this kind of driving behavior as an automatic response when we are in that situation.
It's not possible, probably, to put in a median, or to narrow the lanes in a manner which would lower speeds and improve safety, other than maybe adding a cycletrack. But cycletracks are problematic too because the arterials may provide the majority of parking for commercial areas, making the removal of parking difficult.
Besides adding signals, either regular Traffic Signals or special Pedestrian Crossing Signals, which isn't likely to happen at every block without a regular traffic signal because of the short distance between blocks, the basic recommendations I'd make, which are in the guide, would include Crosswalk Enhancements, Raised Pedestrian Crossings, and Advance Yield/Stop Lines.
Other recommendations I'd make aren't necessarily in the guide, but should be in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and include:
rumble strips a certain distance from unsignalized crosswalks (also mentioned in Best Practices for Arterial Speed Management, prepared for the City of Pasadena).
special crosswalk treatments for all or most unsignalized intersections, either real brick
Brick crosswalk. Image from My Asphalt Dr.
or faux brick. (Faux treatments, "thermoplastic" markings, do need to be reapplied more frequently because of wear--friction from tires.)
Flickr photo by Jym Dyer.
Indianapolis Cultural Trail
special markings for unsignalized intersections, although this treatment is at signalized intersections on Georgia Avenue at Kansas and New Hampshire Avenues NW, and includes brick crosswalks too.
changing the road material to asphalt blocks to provide visual, physical, and aural cues to drive more slowly (also mentioned in Best Practices for Arterial Speed Management), which I think that the city should be doing anyway, on arterial sections proximate commercial districts, schools, parks, and other public facilities.
While there are some remnant examples of asphalt brick on collector streets in Capitol Hill and (cobble) stone block street pavements on local residential streets in Georgetown, and in front of Eastern Market, there are no modern examples of installation of these kinds of pavement materials on a major arterial.
O and P Streets NW in Georgetown still have stone block pavement, because the streetcar tracks have been retained as a historical element.
Special pavers were installed on 7th Street SE as part of the rehabilitation program for the Eastern Market public market building. Currently, this pavement is on the 200 block of 7th Street SE and will be installed when the 300 block is reconstructed in association with the redevelopment of the Hine School site. I have argued that this treatment should be extended across Pennsylvania Avenue and around the Eastern Market Metro Plaza.
When Pennsylvania Avenue was closed in front of the White House for security reasons, the road was repaved with a special treatment also. Image from the American Society of Landscape Architects.
In London, Exhibition Road, which serves as a "museum mile" for the city, has a similar treatment, finished in 2012, and while a shared space, the road is not closed to through traffic. Images from Davis Landscape Architecture.