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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.


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