There's one simple (and relatively cheap) way to make life better for pedestrians: reduce the amount of time they spend in the street, exposed to traffic.
You can narrow streets generally. Or, you can narrow streets at crosswalks.
You narrow streets at a crosswalk by extending the curb line -- and sidewalk -- into the parking area of a street. It's called a curb extension, bulb-out, or neckdown. From a pedestrian point of view, the distance across the street is reduced by the distance you extend the curb into the street.
You, quite literally, take length out of the crosswalk.
Besides shortening the crossing distance, curb extensions help pedestrians by:
visually and physically narrowing the roadway, improving the ability of pedestrians and motorists to see each other, and reducing the time that pedestrians are in the street.
A group of us are lobbying for a curb extension one of the crosswalks at Langley Path on Langley Street. It's an important school crossing for Bowen School. It's a point of access for those on the east of Langley to the Bowen playground and playing fields. And, it's a point of access for those on the west of Langley to the reservation lands. Finally, of course, it's a connection between the neighbors on either side of the street.
It's ironic that it's legal to park a car right next to the crosswalk and effectively narrow the street by as much as the proposed curb extension. But, so far, there is no accommodation for pedestrians, in part because of the concern for the effect on traffic.
Again, 6-plus foot wide car. Okay. Four- to six-foot wide curb extension. Not in the cards.
There ought to be a curb extension at Langley (and we'll keep working on it), but there's a more general case to be made. Herewith, the NS&S crosswalk rule:
Every crosswalk in the city should have a curb extension as wide as any adjacent parking lane.Two exceptions:
- The curb extension should be reduced to the extent necessary to maintain minimum standards for emergency vehicle access. (But, it might be better to move a crosswalk off the corner slightly to have both a full curb extension and the necessary access.)
- There needn't be a curb extension where parking is prohibited for a certain period during the day to create a traffic lane. For instance, the parking lane on Beacon Street east of Centre Street becomes a travel lane from 4-6 PM each day.
I'd make a city goal to remove 200 feet of crosswalk each year. (Two five-foot curb extensions on twenty crosswalks.)