I’m sure we have all done it. You come out of Calhoun Square and you want to cross to get to Penzeys, Magers & Quinn, or Amazing Thailand but are much to efficient to walk to 31st Street just to backtrack once on the other side, so instead you just cross the street mid-block.
While it’s usually only one lane of traffic in each direction, it can still sometimes be a harrowing experience when the car you thought was slowing down was only doing so because they thought they spotted a parking stall but instead was a no parking area by a fire hydrant.
Is it time for this unofficial crossing to become safer with a real crosswalk?
I think it is. So what are our options?
The local example:
On the City of Edina side of the 50th & France business district, there are numerous mid-block crosswalks. These crosswalks involve crossing one lane in each direction with safety enhancements designed to get drivers to notice and stop. These enhancements include crosswalk stripes, flashing crosswalk sign, and a small sign sitting in between the lanes to make it abundantly clear that it is a crosswalk.
In my experience, the crosswalks at 50th & France are some of the best in the Twin Cities with regard to cars actually yielding to pedestrians approaching and entering the crosswalk. Perhaps there has been some enforcement along the way as well.
During a recent trip of mine to the San Diego area, I came across these two mid-block crossing in Carlsbad, CA.
In the Carlsbad, CA examples, simple paint and standard signs were used to highlight the crossing. In my experience, Californians are far better about stopping for pedestrians than drivers in most states, but they do seem to be some of the most aggressive drivers on the highways.
The signs in the middle of the street in the second photo make it very clear that this is a crosswalk. Other crosswalks I saw in California also included embedded lights in the ground that flash when a pedestrian activates the crosswalk, along with overhead flashing lights. There are signs that flash around the outside or a square within the sign lights up when activated.
The above image from Venice, FL uses curb bump outs to help maintain visibility of those entering the crosswalk. The particular method of bump out appears to be a permanent, but perhaps a more cost effective method than ripping out the existing curbing, as I believe this allows any stormwater to continue along the existing gutter than have to move around the bump out.
Down in Salina, Kansas there are several mid-block crosswalks with large canopies. Installed in what sources indicate was in the 1980s as a part of a project that added parking lots behind buildings, created plazas, and made it easier and safer to cross the street, the Salina example is certainly one of the grandest I’ve seen. These crosswalks, which I believe there are three or four, include pedestrian-activated traffic signals that switched for me within 15 seconds. The structures have some older wayfinding signage and had a voting station for their public art program.
These were pretty beefy structures for today’s tastes but were fairly well used the morning we explored Salina. They certainly got your attention when driving down the street and would be nice if it were raining.
I don’t think this type of installation is likely or needed at this location, but I thought I’d share with you the possibilities.
Now is the time
It is expected that Uptown will redo its streetscape sometime around 2015, which will present an opportunity to potentially make some permanent changes. Now is the time to start thinking about how we should install a test crosswalk to see where it should go and how it should become permanent. We should make the test happen in 2014.