10 Ways to Make Streets Safer: A Primer for the Citizen
by Jill Escher of Walk San Jose
1. Put in Zebra Stripes at Key Crosswalks
The easiest and least expensive thing a city can do to improve conditions for
pedestrians is to simply improve the visibility and prominence of crosswalks
on high-volume streets.
2. Place Bicycle Lanes on More Streets
Another inexpensive action is bike lanes. They make the streets safer for bike
use, thus encouraging bicycling as an alternative to the car. They separate
pedestrians further from car traffic and they narrow car lanes in some cases,
causing cars to slow down.
3. Place Pedestrian Islands/Refuges on Busy Streets
Refuge Islands bring the safety of the raised sidewalk to the center of the
street. This can be an effective way to improve safety without having to
install an expensive traffic signal. It can be particularly effective when
combined with corner “bulb-outs.” See #5.
4. Restore our “Stolen” Corners
City’s should restore tight, old-fashioned “square” corners to our
intersections, and discard the broad, rounded “speedway” corners currently
favored by traffic engineers. The modern, broad corners induce motorists to
speed as they make turns through intersections, they create unduly large
intersections that are scary to cross on foot, and they steal key territory
from pedestrians and give it to cars.
5. Place “Bulb-outs” at Key Intersections
Imagine blowing air into a regular street corner’s sidewalk until it expands
out into the intersection a few feet on all sides. That’s a bulb-out! These
type of curb extenders are popular in retail districts. They shorten the
distance across a street and make pedestrians more visible to oncoming
drivers. They also slow car speeds which is a boon to nearby retail stores.
Store owners want people to slow down and look, and they want people to be
able to easily cross the street to their store.
6. Add More Crosswalks
Some cities claim to be improving pedestrian safety by removing crosswalks.
They argue that crosswalks provide a “false sense of security.” They are
wrong. What crosswalks do is communicate to motorists that they should yield
to pedestrians. Without crosswalks, motorists are simply not inclined to stop
for a pedestrian. What we need are safer crosswalks. Lighted crosswalks or
raised crosswalks are good examples.
(In Arcata, Calif., crosswalks were erased to erase “liability.” -ed.)
7. Convert Four-lane “Collector” Streets to
Three-lane “Multi-modal” Streets
A three lane street has periodic turning lanes which efficiently take turning
cars out of the flow of traffic. Four lane roads are less efficient because
turning movements are unpredictable and require a lane change into flowing
traffic. It is much safer for a pedestrian to cross this type of street than a
standard four lane street with no median. This treatment creates the
opportunity to add bicycle lanes without removing any parking spaces.
8. Install Roundabouts
Medium-sized traffic circles and small-sized roundabouts are increasingly
popular traffic control devices. They are an effective and inexpensive
alternative to traffic signals or stop signs.
9. Install Speed Humps
Speed humps can be effective at diverting cut-through traffic from
neighborhood streets, and slowing traffic down to about 15 MPH. They are much
less jarring than their smaller counterpart, “speed bumps.”
10. Join your local affiliate group
We can connect you to other advocates and help you to get educated as well as
to educate others.
from: Walk San Jose, in turn from THE
PEDESTRIAN FOOT PRINT, The Bay Area's Pedestrian Newsletter: Vol. 2, Issue 3,
February 2000. Published monthly by BayPeds.