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Slapping Flashy Crosswalks on Stroads Misses the Point of Complete Streets

11:34 AM EST on December 7, 2015

Leveraging technology, data, engineering, & education solutions to improve Florida transportation safety #FDOT100 pic.twitter.com/5SIKgeJlqS

— FLORIDA DOT (@MyFDOT) December 3, 2015

This Tweet from the Florida Department of Transportation last week was intended to exemplify the agency's efforts to make walking and biking safer on the state's notoriously deadly roads.

In FDOT's defense, this is a huge task. But Jesse Bailey at Walkable West Palm Beach says the agency is highlighting the wrong stuff:

Here are a couple observations.

  • Who is this crosswalk serving? Look at the adjacent land uses. Largely undeveloped other than a few intersecting low volume roadways. There are no visible sidewalks in the photo parallel to the right of way. And there shouldn’t be, because this road section is well designed for high speed car travel. And that’s a good thing. We get into trouble when we confuse roads and streets, which have very different objectives. This is a well designed road, designed for moving cars quickly from A to B. Putting “pedestrian bling” in the clear zone just confuses matters and creates truly dangerous obstacles for high speed vehicular travel
  • The “crosswalk” street name signage is cute, but completely ineffective in this environment. It’s human scale signage designed to be read at human speed (less than 20 mph), not in a car doing 50+ mph.
  • Push button and flashing pedestrian light complete with decorative pole. All the trappings of a safe street environment. None of the effectiveness, in practice.
  • The notion that we should expect cars to stop on a dime for a pedestrian in this environment is absurd. Six lanes, three in each direction, with speeds easily exceeding 50 mph just guessing from the road geometry.

Just as walkability advocates need to be rigorous about the places where walkability makes sense, we also need to be rigorous about places where it doesn’t make sense. FDOT, spare us the pedestrian bling and save your money on creating safer, better pedestrian infrastructure where it makes sense and will be used.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Urbanist considers different proposals for Seattle's big light rail expansion plan. The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation outlines the notable policies for walking and biking infrastructure in the new federal transportation bill.

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