What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

28 June 2017

Walk This Way

There's one traffic sign that I hate more than almost any others. It adds more inconvenience to the road users who already bear the most inconvenience anyway, and does not a freaking thing to improve safety. Which one is it?

This one. A plague upon the idiot inventor of this sign.
So here's a little background for folks who may not spend their spare time studying transportation stuff: Every intersection is a legal crosswalk. Every one. Even where a side street meets a major thoroughfare--every one of those corners is a legal crosswalk. It doesn't matter if it has lines for pedestrians or not; if two streets come together, pedestrians are allowed to cross there. Which is one reason why residential streets, especially those with short blocks, have low speed limits, and why drivers should always observe those speed limits even if they don't feel like it.

The only time an intersection is not a legal crosswalk is if it is specifically marked with one of these signs. Circumstances when this sign makes sense do exist--for example, there's an intersection I cross at least twice a week where the street goes from two-way traffic to one-way traffic, and there's a "no pedestrian" sign on the two-way side. (But not, it should be noted, on the cross street, where the traffic is two-way in both directions, so... huh?) The argument can be made that this intersection already has sufficient confusion for motorists that taking out one leg of pedestrian crossing makes it a touch easier. To which I say: meh. If that's what it takes, I suppose, but these situations are rare and as such, the signs should be used sparingly.

However, I'm pretty sure Cincinnati got a bunch of these signs in a sale and just puts them up whenever they have a traffic crew sitting around bored for a few minutes. ("Here, y'all run out and put up one of these signs. Doesn't matter where.") I see them in high-pedestrian areas all the time, which makes no sense--why force more people to cross the street just to cross the street?

A HAWK beacon in my beloved Austin. Source.
Unfortunately, the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which gives very detailed advice on crosswalks, traffic signals, and my favourite combination of the two, the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (or HAWK Beacon) (I seriously get very excited when I see those things in action. Just ask Jenna), is much more skimpy in its advice for use of the no pedestrian sign, which is what allows Cincinnati to put them up wherever they darn well please. Which forces pedestrians, already stuck with long "don't walk" periods and short "walk" periods, to endure up to three light cycles instead of just one to get across one street. Drivers wouldn't put up with that crap, and they're sitting in cushioned boxes with entertainment and climate control. People on foot shouldn't be expected to go through that much rigmarole just to get where they're going, either.

Take down most of those dumb signs and get serious about really protecting pedestrians, Cincinnati. There are plenty of ways to make a city a better place for pedestrians, but this is not one of them.

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