First up though is a link that came via Price Tags, one of my favorite blogs! The post is an article about alleyways in Vancouver that I think makes for brilliant shared spaces for multiple forms of transport including, of course, walking. These alleys also lower the amount of run off into storm water drains and increases property values which in turn increases property taxes which increases city revenue. Click here for the article.
Now, back to those pedestrian crossings. As promised I have been researching the various ways that crossing a street can be made safer. There is a lot of debate about this and there seems to be agreement that pedestrian crossings where there are multiple lanes of traffic in a single direction actually make crossing less safe. One hazard is that a driver may stop but the next lane over a driver doesn't stop and runs over the pedestrian who is now in the middle of the street. Another hazard is simply that streets like this are wide so pedestrians, especially those unable to move quickly, are exposed to traffic for longer. On wide streets adding islands where pedestrians can stop safely helps. There are also stats that show, not surprisingly, that children and elderly are hit most frequently.
So, the easiest answer is to say that finding the right answer isn't easy. David Fields of Nelson/Nygaard told me that
"there's lots that can be done including physical improvements (narrowing, raised pavement, etc.), signage, signal/stop sign, cameras, and more". He also made the point that where pedestrians are already crossing the issue is making sure they have a safe way to do it and that the decision about what should be done really needs to be site specific. This matches with the studies that show that the type of road (width, number of traffic lanes, speed limit, visibility...) makes a difference both to the accident rate and how best to lower it. On Webster and Glenmore in New Rochelle, the intersection I am worried about, the road is narrow and busy and getting drivers to reduce speed and being aware of what is going on and who is sharing the road with them is critical.
Here are a few resources. The first three come via David Fields and the others are studies I have found on line. Happy reading! And when you are next driving somewhere and a car in the lane next to you slows down, give a thought to why before you drive past. That moment of heightened attention may save someone's life. More on this later....
Complete Streets Chicago
Complete Streets New Haven
New York City Street Design Manual
New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan August 2010 (I believe the accident rate has gone up again recently but that does not negate the great work that has been done to date)
US Department of Transportation has some great resources at the bottom of the page this link should take you to.