Sometimes the Safer Street Design Option Is the Less Expensive One

Dallas has been creating crosswalks by stamping patterns into concrete. This is the wrong approach, says Mark Brown. Photo: Car Free Dallas
If you look very closely, you can see the crosswalks at this Dallas intersection. Photo: Car Free Dallas

While there are certainly a lot of large-scale obstacles to making the Dallas region more walkable, Mark Brown at Car Free Dallas says there’s also no lack of quick fixes that could improve streets for a negligible cost.

In Los Angeles, these "continental," or zebra-striped crosswalks have made pedestrian crossings much more visible. Photo: Car Free Dallas
Zebra crosswalks: high visibility, low cost. Photo: Car Free Dallas

One idea is as simple as enhancing crosswalk visibility with paint, instead of the expensive, hard-to-see treatments at some Dallas intersections:

Upon my travels around town on foot, I’ve seen ornate crosswalks with intricate stamped asphalt patterns which are invisible to drivers and pedestrians [pictured above]. The brown/gray brick patterns on black asphalt just doesn’t cut it for pedestrian safety. A lot of money is spent on these crosswalks which do nothing to make intersection crossings more visible.

While many people lament that Dallas is not walkable because of sprawl and suburban style urban design, this is only part of the problem. We need to start valuing our neighborhoods which are already walkable by supporting pedestrian comfort and safety. While we’re figuring out the big problems like the DFW metro eventually crossing the Oklahoma border, we can do quick, cheap things like crosswalk upgrades. Luckily we have a good model. Los Angeles is quickly becoming the next go-to model for complete streets. They’ve installed continental crosswalks throughout their downtown, near transit stations and schools.

Not only are continental crosswalks [pictured right] cheaper than stamped patterns, but they’re safer too. Cheap, quick, effective. It also lets people know that just because you’re walking some place, you’re no less of a priority than drivers.

The battle for safer streets doesn’t necessarily have to wait for big reconstruction projects. Well placed paint can go a long way in the mean time.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Milwaukee Rising rebuts the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s safety justifications for spending $1 billion to expand a highway through Milwaukee. And The Naked City says more cities should question the old Daniel Burnham axiom and embrace “small plans.”

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