Twelve steps to cut pedestrian deaths
Here’s a few of practical steps to slow speeds, deter distracted driving and help make walking a safer, comfortable and enjoyable experience for everyone. This is where Vision Zero hits the road.
• Reduce the number of travel lanes on wide streets wherever possible. Downsizing four-lane suburban and urban streets to two travel lanes with an alternating turn lane in the middle has become a popular trend across the country. Not only does this create safer streets, it lessens noise for residents and creates an opportunity to add sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping. (This is known as a road diet, lane reduction or 2+1 road.)
• Reduce the width of travel lanes. Wide lanes send an unmistakable message for drivers to speed up.
• Reduce the length of crosswalks. A shorter walk across the street is a safer one. This can be done in a number of ways, but most commonly by extending the sidewalk out into the intersection. (This is known as a curb extension or bulb-out.)
• Add medians in the middle of busy streets as a refuge for crossing pedestrians. This has been shown to reduce traffic accidents by 56 percent, according to Gil Penalosa of 8-80 Cities.
• Make crosswalks more visible. Elevate them to curb level, or mark them with wide swaths of paint.
• Give pedestrians a head start at traffic lights. Five seconds allows pedestrians to enter the crosswalk first and be far more visible to motorists, says Penalosa. Lining up waiting cars a few feet back from the intersection accomplishes the same thing.
• Ban right on red turns at busy intersections. Drivers, busy watching out for other cars, often don’t see pedestrians crossing the street on green lights.
• Keep the turning radius 90 degrees at intersections. Rounded street corners encourages drivers to turn without stopping or looking for pedestrians.
• Install traffic circles, roundabouts, speed bumps, speed tables and other traffic calming devices, which help motorists drive safely and keep an eye out for pedestrians.
• Convert one-way streets to two-way, which encourages safer, slower driving.
• Pay close attention to road designs at bus stops. Pedestrians often rush across the street to catch their bus, not paying attention to oncoming traffic.
• Create pedestrian streets, bridges and underpasses in busy areas to minimize conflict with traffic and enhance the convenience of walking.
• Separate bike lanes on busy streets with curbs, posts or other physical dividers. Protected bike lanes create a more comfortable, enjoyable trip for pedestrians too.
• Strict enforcement of laws against speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, drunk driving and reckless driving. Injuring or killing people with a car is no less tragic than doing it with a gun.
• Install red light cameras and other of means photo enforcement. It’s expensive to station a police car at every unsafe intersection, but technology can nab lawbreakers at a fraction of the cost. Washington, DC now uses cameras to detect and fine drivers who do not yield right-of-way to pedestrians as well as those who speed or run red lights, says Charlie Zegeer of the Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center.
• Convert traffic lights to four-way stop signs at less busy intersections. Motorists rocketing through intersections to avoid a red light is one of the most common--and dangerous--causes of speeding.
• Establish Safe Routes to Schools campaigns, which bring educators, parents, neighbors and kids themselves together to find safe, satisfying ways for students to walk and bike to school.
• Training programs about pedestrian safety for traffic engineers, transportation planners, police, city officials, citizens and children. “All the kids in the Netherlands have three weeks instruction in the rules of the road at school,” notes Penalosa. “They role play being pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.”
• Put Pedestrians First. “Every city should have a by-law of one sentence stating: “In this city, pedestrians come first,” declares Penalosa. “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point during the day, even if you are just walking from your parking space. So everyone has a stake in Vision Zero.”
“These pedestrian improvements also improve motorists’ and biyclists’ safety,” Zegeer adds. “It’s a win-win-win. Everyone’s safer.”
Note: This is Part 2 to an article on Vision Zero.
Jay Walljasper, author of the Great Neighborhood Book, writes, speaks and consults about how to create safer, sustainable, more enjoyable communities.