|[One of many attempts to get cars to stop on Snelling.]|
(a) Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield. This provision shall not apply under the conditions as otherwise provided in this subdivision.
(b) When any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle. [...]
(d) A person who violates this subdivision is guilty of a misdemeanor. A person who violates this subdivision a second or subsequent time within one year of a previous conviction under this subdivision is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
But as anyone who's ever stood on the corner of a busy street searching in vain for a gap in the stream of cars knows, laws are one thing and everyday life is quite another. Even in the Twin Cities' most walkable neighborhoods, its quite rare for drivers to stop for people trying to cross the street. Paradoxically, crosswalks can sometimes be more dangerous than jaywalking. There are lots of spots in the Twin Cities where people trying to cross the street have to take their life into their own hands. Despite the law, and the state DOT's occasional education campaign, stopping for pedestrians is not something that has become commonplace in Minnesota. Not only is the status quo dangerous, it leaves pedestrians as stranded second-class citizens, discouraging walking in our cities. Is there anything we can do about it?
The Massachusetts Example
|[Crosswalk in Williamstown, MA.]|
Today, while it's still not perfect, you can walk around Boston drivers will often top for you to cross the street, maybe not all the time, but enough to make a difference. In Berkeley, California, it's also common to have cars stop and wait for you. Places like these prove that changing car culture is possible...
The Limits of Education Campaigns
|[Is this poster even worth the ink?]|
I wrote about this a while back on Streets.mn:
Education campaigns, too, have obvious limits. More than anything, these campaigns provide engineers and policy makers with a “false sense of security,” offering the illusion that they institutions have accomplished something when (in fact) very little has changed. Placing up a few signs that say “Every corner is a crosswalk” is likely to have almost miniscule effect. How many people are likely to look at the billboards? Of those people, how many will understand what they are trying to say? Of those people, who many will actually care? Of those people, who many will actually change their behavior? What percentage of the time?
My preferred solution is engineering, i.e. designing streets with bumpouts or medians that make it easy for cars to notice and stop for people in the first place. While we're making slow progress towards change, with efforts like Complete Streets design rules. But even on well-designed streets (e.g. East Franklin Avenue) nobody stops for pedestrians trying to cross. Maybe the Twin Cities' just has a dominant car culture? It's depressing to think, but maybe people in our cities will always drive like self-important dicks, and there's nothing anyone can do about it?
|[Why did the chicken cross the road?]|
What do you think? Is this a lost cause? Other than hordes of do-good Boy Scout escorts, or installing absurdly expensive signals everywhere, how can we make it safe for people to cross the street?