Perils for Pedestrians

TV talk about people who walk

What is a Peril?

Examples

  • A missing sidewalk
  • A dangerous intersection
  • A road design flaw
  • A risk to personal safety
  • A pattern of unsafe motorist behavior
  • An obstacle to wheelchair users
  • A hazard for our friends in the bicycling community

Perils for Pedestrians is interested in both problems and solutions.

 

Problems

A signpost is placed in the middle of the widened sidewalk.

Obstacles in sidewalk.

Bethesda, Maryland. On Battery Lane the sidewalk is widened at a utility pole to give pedestrians enough space to walk around it.  Good idea!

A signpost is placed in the middle of the widened sidewalk.  The space between the post and the pole is too narrow for a wheelchair user to get by. Bad idea!

Rough crosswalk with bricks and pavers

Misguided use of decorative crosswalks.

Birmingham, Alabama. Bricks and pavers are used for crosswalks. Some designers think that the different color and texture will make drivers take more notice of the crosswalk. This is a mistake. Bricks are far less visible to drivers than reflective white paint, especially at night or in the rain. And it doesn't make sense to have the entire street smooth except where pedestrians are expected to walk on it.

At the intersection in the photo, a wheelchair user travels outside the crosswalk to avoid the vibration from traveling over the fancy pavers

There are better solutions.

Stretching to reach an inaccessible ped button

Inaccessible pedestrian button

Annapolis, Maryland. To cross Rowe Boulevard, you have to push a button to get the walk signal. A steel guardrail separates the button from the sidewalk. Unless you play for the NBA, it's a bit of a stretch. Bad idea!

Hydrant in sidewalk

Obstacle in sidewalk.

Honolulu, Hawaii. When Kalanianaole Highway was recently widened, the fire hydrants were installed in the exact center of the sidewalk! This placement did not leave room on either side for a wheelchair to pass by. Moving the hydrants over to the edge of the sidewalk (where they should have been in the first place) would be expensive, so the sidewalk was extended out into the street instead. Now bicyclists using the bicycle lane have to contend with an abrupt narrowing of the bike lane next to every hydrant. Bad idea!

Dangerous underpass

Disappearing sidewalk.

Gaithersburg, Maryland. Quince Orchard Road passes under the CSX railroad tracks. The sidewalk along Quince Orchard first turns into a dirt path, and then disappears altogether. A guardrail pushes pedestrians out into the street, where they share space with cars under the bridge. Ouch!

poor landscape design

Poor landscape design.

Washington, DC. Shrubbery and a fence block direct pedestrian access to the WUSA television studios. Pedestrians have to detour to a side street and go up the driveway. All this within three blocks of the Metro!

One way thinking

One-way thinking

Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Signs and signals on on-way streets only point toward the one-way auto traffic, not to the two-way pedestrian traffic. Half the time, pedestrians are on the wrong side to see the street name or the green light. Bad idea!

Hide the pedestrian

Hide the pedestrian.

Bethesda, Maryland. Good visibility near intersections is vital to pedestrian safety. A misguided attempt at beautification has created a hazardous situation. There are two pedestrians behind the planter in this photo! Bad idea!

rough crosswalk with bricks and pavers

Misguided use of decorative crosswalks.

Birmingham, Alabama. Bricks and pavers are used for crosswalks. Some designers think that the different color and texture will make drivers take more notice of the crosswalk. This is a mistake. Bricks are far less visible to drivers than reflective white paint, especially at night or in the rain. And it doesn't make sense to have the entire street smooth except where pedestrians are expected to walk on it.

At this intersection, a wheelchair user travels outside the crosswalk to avoid the vibration from traveling over the fancy pavers

There are better solutions.

parking lot drains onto sidewalk

Drain parking lots onto the sidewalk.

This parking lot in Helena, Montana, is designed to drain all of its stormwater runoff across the adjacent sidewalk. Pedestrians are guaranteed to get their shoes soaked. In the winter, meltwater from the parking lot will form a sheet of ice across the sidewalk.

There are better solutions.

Solutions

Pedestrian friendly urban trail.

Asheville, North Carolina. A lovely urban trail circles downtown! Created through a public-private partnership, the self-guided walking trail uses sculpture and markers to highlight the city's heritage. Thirty stations are spread out in a 1.6 mile (2.6 km) loop. The trail helps to attract pedestrians back to the downtown area.

Storm drains separated from the curb.

San Jacinto Street in Houston, Texas. The street is being rebuilt with the storm drains located in the street several feet from the curb. Water flows away from the curb, preventing puddles near the sidewalk where cars can splash pedestrians.

crosswalk with brick borders

Good use of decorative crosswalks.

Crosswalks along Michigan Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have a surface that is distinctive from the surrounding asphalt street, but without creating problems for pedestrians. Concrete is used for the crosswalk, providing a smooth surface for pedestrians. Each edge of the crosswalk has a border of paving stones, providing a tactile guide for blind pedestrians using a cane to navigate. A much better approach than brick crosswalks, which can provide a rough surface for pedestrians.

Concrete Crosswalk

Nice intersection treatment in downtown Milwaukee.

The entire intersection is colored and textured to resemble brick paving stones, except for the crosswalks. The crosswalks are smooth white concrete, with the textured surface on either side. The distinctive texture and color makes the intersection stand out for drivers, but the pedestrians still have a smooth surface to walk on.

Painted Crosswalk

Clever crosswalk painting in Seattle

This crosswalk striping pattern is highly visible to motorists. The stripes are spaced to avoid the tire paths of the average car, so they will need to be repainted less often.