Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A City for Cars or for People?

Cars only. People Use Side Door.
Speaking of the Broadway Bridge, have you ever noticed the signs barring people from using the crosswalk across Broadway north of Markham? Apparently facilitating the rapid movement of automobiles out of Little Rock is more important than promoting walkability. Well, at least this isn't a major urban civic crossroads with City Hall on one corner, the main city auditorium and oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi on another, and the County Courthouse on a third, right? Wrong!

Argument 1 for the signs: "There's already so much car traffic on Markham in the afternoons waiting to make that left turn onto Broadway that if you put a walk phase into the signal cycle the congestion would back up even more."
A response: There's a ton of traffic on Markham precisely because the engineers have sacrificed the walk signal and designated two lanes with a protected left turn. Make that left turn from Markham onto Broadway less appealing and drivers will find another way. Guaranteed. Right now we don't even allow a left turn from 3rd Street onto Broadway despite there being two east-bound travel lanes. We have a connected street grid downtown with many options for drivers, but the traffic engineers have altered it to funnel cars into certain patterns. Heck, a few drivers might even decide to ride the bus or a bike if we didn't bend over backwards to make driving so easy.

Argument 2 for the signs: "It's just too dangerous for pedestrians to cross there. The signs protect them."
A response: Then make the intersection safer. Construct a raised crosswalk; lower car speeds by changing the pavement material; get bigger walk/don't walk signs; shrink Broadway down from 5 lanes to 3 or 4 and construct sidewalk bump-outs to shorten the distance across. There are countless ways of making streets safer and more inviting for pedestrians if we decide to do so.

Argument 3 for the signs: "No one walks there anyway, so there's no harm done."
A response: No one walks there because it is an unfriendly space for pedestrians. Make it more inviting and people will use their feet.

Just because things are a certain way does not mean they should be.


  1. Just as infuriating: Installing only 3 crosswalks at a standard 4-way intersection. That's what MoDOT has done at many intersections in St. Louis.

  2. "The only problem with traffic in downtown Los Angeles is pedestrians" - Caltrans Engineer