Monday, July 21, 2008

Spare a few seconds for pedestrians?

How should Newton time its traffic signals to promote pedestrian safety and convenience?

According to WalkBoston and Streetsblog/Streetfilms, give the folks on foot a little headstart. The headstart has a technical name: Leading Pedestrian Interval. Instead of the crosswalk going green at the same time as same-direction motorists (concurrent) or pedestrians getting an exclusive walk signal, pedestrians get a few seconds of green before the same-direction motorists. This gives the pedestrians a chance to get into the crosswalk where they are more visible to right-turning traffic and less likely to be hit.

WalkBoston breaks it down (PDF):

Re-time lights for longer WALK time: Time traffic
signals so that pedestrians cross with, and for as long
as, the motorists’ green light in the same direction
[concurrent WALK light]. This gives pedestrians more
time to cross. Concurrent WALK also gives a shorter
wait between WALK phases.

Ask for short light cycles: 60-90 second cycles are
ideal. Walkers will wait about 30 seconds for a WALK
light; longer waits lead to jaywalking and danger.

Request countdown signals and advance WALK:
Countdown lights show how much crossing time
remains. When installed at a high-accident intersection,
pedestrian crashes drop by 50%. A WALK shown
4 seconds before the green light gives walkers a
head start before cars begin to turn. Thus, walkers
will be more visible to drivers.

Here's three minutes of Streetfilm that animates and explains it all:


WVW said...

One... Massachusetts needs to get rid of the inefficient 4-way red light to give pedestrians the crosswalk. "Same direction" green signals and walk signals work perfectly well in many other cities.

I live in West Newton and my wife and i go walking all the time. A big presumption of all this kind of thinking is that people don't walk because somehow it is difficult or dangerous to do so. This is surely not the case - walking is easy and safe in newton. The reason people don't walk is because they are lazy and tied to the car as their only form of transportation. We can walk both to Moody Street and to West Newton center.. and we do. Yet we routinely see our neighbors drive even the shortest distances. Parents even drive their kids 4 or 5 blocks to school each day despite newton's commitment to having neighborhood based elementary schools.

So, let's stop bogging down the car traffic to "make it easier for pedestrians" until we as a society show some sign that we actually WANT to start walking more on a daily basis.

Jason said...

Newton needs to build pedestrian bridges over the rotary off the Mass Pike. Pedestrians crossing the road cause literally miles of backup on the Pike getting off there, and I can't imagine with all the other stuff drivers have to contend with there that it's very safe for them. It seems that it would ease traffic congestion and create a safer environment for pedestrians.

runnerbean said...

I am a runner in Newton and find that the sidewalks are very dangerous in and of themselves. The cement gets pushed up by tree roots and I have tripped numerous times on slabs that are uneven.

Plus, running in the early morning or late evening is also dangerous because the streetlights only light up the roads (for who, the cars who have headlights??) and the trees shade the sidewalks so you can't see the tree roots and uneven pavement you are about to trip on.

I've been blinded by cars' headlights, and I feel that if streetlights lit up the sidewalks for the pedestrians it would be safer for everyone.

Josh said...

Two kinds of thinking.

Jason: Good idea. A pedestrian bridge at Newton Corner woul smooth things out for everyone.

Runnerbean: How about if we tell the trees to stop expanding their roots and also arrange for the sun to rise/set according to your running schedule (and have drivers turn their lights off)? Come on. use your common sense and take some responsibility for yourself

runnerbean said...

Gee what was I thinking?! You're right. I guess asking mother nature to quit her job would be sort of asinine (duh!).

I guess what I am pushing for is for the roads and the sidewalks to be well taken care of. (Like everyone else here.)

Newton is a beautiful city and people should feel safe and proud to walk along its streets.

Fortunately for me, I have a flexible work schedule so I can go running at high-noon if I so choose~~~~but I don't want skin cancer...I AM taking some responsibility for myself afterall.


Bill Aldrich said...

Regarding the longer time for "same direction" lights, I support the idea. But is this effort worth the time? I believe a pedestrian has the right of way when traffic has stopped. Wouldn't the use of mobile video cameras randomly moved around the city help to fine autos and pedestrians who use intersections incorrectly be better?