Environmental Modifications to Improve Crossings with No Traffic Control
The design of crossings with no traffic signal or stop sign can be altered to make them easier and safer by shortening the distance to cross, slowing down the traffic, and increasing the likelihood that drivers will yield.
A great resource showing suggestions for design improvements, based on research to increase the likelihood that drivers will yield to pedestrians at these crossings, is Improving Pedestrian Safety at
Unsignalized Crossings: Appendices B to O (Fitzpatrick, K., Turner, S., Brewer, M., Carlson, P., Ullman, B., Trout, N., Park, E., Whitacre, J., Lalani, N., & Lord, D., 2006 -- TCRP Report 112/NCHRP Report 562 - Improving pedestrian safety at unsignalized crossings. Transit Cooperative Research Program and National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Washington, D.C.: Transportation Research Board).
Meanwhile, photos of some examples I've seen are shown below:
Traffic can be slowed by requiring it to move right or left rather than go straight -- the tighter the turn required, the slower the traffic. Features that can deflect the traffic include islands, circles, and bulbouts (bulbouts are extensions or "bumpouts" of the sidewalk or curb into the street).
BULBOUTS, CIRCLES and REFUGE ISLANDS
Example 1 --
At the street shown here, it was impossible to hear the vehicles far enough away to know whether it was clear to cross all 5 lanes. A blind man who had to cross it with his young son to catch the bus decided it was too risky.
Several years later, this same street was made much safer for pedestrians by converting the outside lanes to parking lanes and cutting them off with bulbouts (sidewalk extending into the street), and filling in the middle (turning) lane with a refuge islane. Pedestrians only have to cross one lane at a time.
This photo shows the same crosswalk. The cut-through of the refuge island is at an angle, to encourage pedestrians to face the oncoming traffic before crossing
Example 2 --
Three photos below all show a 3-lane, moderately busy residential through-street where a small circular island and two bulbouts were installed to deflect the traffic, making vehicles turn and slow down.
(below) To the left is a photo of the above street, to the right is a photo that has been revised to show how it looked before the circle and bulbouts were installed..
Example 3 --
A circle and bulbouts were installed in the street in the photo below.
Example 4 --
La Jolla Boulevard in San Diego, California (left, below) was 80 feet curb to curb before it was redesigned, the crosswalk is now 13 feet curb to curb (right).
Concept by Michael Wallwork, P.E., Alternate Street Design. P.A.
Example 5 --
The three photographs below show a crosswalk that was shortened with a bulbout on one side of the street and a pedestrian refuge island in the middle. However detectable warnings should be installed to help blind pedestrians recognize the areas of refuge.
For some reason, it is not possible to hear the approaching cars at this crosswalk in Olathe, Missouri (below left) well enough to know whether it is clear to cross, even when it is quiet. A half block away on the same street, a one-lane roundabout was installed (shown below, right). The tight radius slows the traffic, and splitter islands divide the crosswalk into two short crossings. When it is quiet there, it possible to hear the cars well enough to know whether it is clear enough to cross to/from the splitter island. However, if there are not sufficient gaps in traffic to allow it to become quiet, it may still not be possible to recognize when it is clear to cross.
Roundabouts are not necessarily the solution if they are not designed well, and/or if they are in a noisy environment or traffic is too heavy to provide gaps in traffic that are long enough to be perceived by hearing. The two photos below show a roundabout that was installed a block away from the quiet roundabout shown above. This roundabout is two lanes wide so the crosswalks are twice as long, the turning radius is large enough that the traffic can maintain higher speeds, and loud, constant noise from the highway on the bridge nearby makes it impossible to hear approaching traffic until it is a few seconds away. Thus, if a blind person heard nothing coming and stepped out to cross, there could be a car only seconds away from impact.
Shown below is a circle in the middle of the intersection, which slows down the traffic because it is large enough to block straight-through vehicles and require them to turn into the perpendicular street before resuming their direction.
(below) When the left photo was taken in 1994, it was not possible to hear all the approaching cars well enough to know if it was clear to cross, even when quiet (see "Challenge Photo #5").
The photo to the right shows the same intersection today -- now, when it is quiet, the cars can be heard with enough warning. The difference?
A speed hump which had been installed almost out of sight around the bend (below) slows the traffic and makes it possible to hear them with more warning.
Return to Alternatives When Crossing is Too Risky (page 8 in the Self-Study Guide)
Return to "Crossing Streets"
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