Crosswalk Workshop 17Oct2010 Report

The Coalition to Take Back Our Streets held its first Crosswalk Workshop at the pedestrian crosswalk on Aloma Avenue between Forsyth and Tangerine.  This crosswalk is 100 yards west of the crash site where Kasön Bailey was killed Friday night, October 8th.  The three workshop participants were Keri Caffrey, Christopher Eggebrecht and myself.  Will biked up controlling his lane on Aloma to lend support but had to leave to attend to family obligations.

The picture is of Keri asking traffic to stop so she can escort someone across the street.  Notice her foot in the crosswalk, her arm and hand outstretched to catch motorists’ attention, and her eyes intent on catching the motorist’s eye.  Keri took some video clips:

A website with information is here.  And you can see photos here.

We met with about 25 people and most we escorted across the street in the crosswalk, several both coming and going.  I printed 30 brochures and we handed out 26.  We were there for two hours.  There were three near rear-enders and we got lots of negative and off-color comments from drivers.  No one called the police and we didn’t see any police cars during the time we were there.  Most people understood and agreed with what we were doing.  Many were Hispanic and didn’t speak English, but welcomed the assistance crossing the street.  There were a few that crossed outside the crosswalk just to stay away from us, mostly young males.  Everyone wants lighting and a signal beacon on the crosswalk.  The t-shirts Keri designed are awesome and really added to the event.  The near perfect weather was very welcome.

I’m going to schedule another workshop for the same crosswalk on the 31st.  With the longer lead time we should be able to get a few more participants.  I’d like to be able to get everyone a T-shirt next time.  Since it will be Halloween I’d like to give out iced water bottles and treats for the kids.  Costumes optional.

Here’s my response to a question on motorist compliance:

It’s obviously hard to pin down a percentage since when the traffic is heavy and speeds are high, it’s difficult to say which motorists would be required to stop under Florida’s ambiguous law.  Next time we should put markers at the reasonable stopping distance for the 45 MPH speed limit which could help.  But even then it might be difficult to determine whether a driver really should have been required to stop or not.  When a platoon of cars comes by the leaders are usually so close together that if one stopped there would almost inevitably be a chain reaction set of rear end collisions.  The person looking to cross is so intent on watching that drivers don’t run into him/her that it’s hard to be able at the same time to judge who should have stopped or not.  (More good reasons for a look at the basic structure of our traffic laws.)

All that being said, I have to say that when presented with reasonable conditions to stop, about half of the drivers did.  However, if you include cars streaming by at 45 MPH bumper to bumper, the percentage drops dramatically to around 15%.  Many drivers switched lanes to avoid having to stop.  One driver tried to switch lanes when the car in front of him slowed down to stop, only to find the driver in the other lane was stopping also.  He had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.  (I jumped back big time!)

The 45 MPH speed is a big, big issue.  If traffic were slower, many more motorists would be willing to yield since they wouldn’t be as afraid of being rear-ended.  I understand FDOT’s concern about placing crosswalks on higher speed roads.  The solution, however, is very simple; lower the design speed and speed limits in pedestrian areas.  The right to build high-speed arterials through pedestrian-active urban areas needs to be revoked.

Here are comments on the workshop from Keri Caffrey:

“As an outreach, I think it went well. I’m not sure if most of the motorists agreed with what we were doing. I found the motorist attitudes and behavior discouraging. That crosswalk needs an RRFB [Rectangular Rapidly Flashing Beacon, a strobe light set that signals a pedestrian is in the crosswalk] and regular police enforcement.

This is my observation of the people who live in the area:

The ones we helped cross were grateful, but I bet 90% of them will not be assertive on their own. There’s little reward for it. It’s humiliating and lonely to stand with a foot on the asphalt, holding out your arm while a dozen motorists blow past you. No one wants to plead like that and be blown off—especially a solo person. As added negative reinforcement, when drivers do stop, other drivers yell and honk. There is far less psychological burden to stand back in the shadows till the coast is clear and slip across the road unnoticed… even if that means waiting a long time.

It’s infinitely easier and more rewarding to be an assertive bicycle driver than an assertive pedestrian.”

I agree with Keri’s excellent comments.

I even found myself more willing to wait until the traffic cleared to attempt to step out into the crosswalk as the day wore on.  There are many more drivers than pedestrians and as Keri stated, they are almost all opposed to what you’re trying to do.

So that’s it.  A good experience with lots of insights obtained and a plan to move ahead with another crosswalk workshop on the 31st, same location.  Hope to see you there!

21 replies
  1. Steven Goodridge
    Steven Goodridge says:

    We know from our cycling experience that crossing the paths of other traffic is much more problematic than simply being in the path for a sustained time under good visibility. A pedestrian crossing one lane of traffic without signal control has the challenge of initiating the action early enough for drivers to see and understand their action, which is more difficult at high speed. Crossing two same-direction lanes adds the problem of occluded sight lines, resulting in the multiple threat hazard. It’s generally safer for pedestrians to wait for gaps when crossing two lanes of same direction traffic. Median refuge islands can assist with this by encouraging pedestrians to wait at the median and wait for a gap on the second half of the road. However, it can sometimes be a challenge to get good median refuges installed by the DOT without painted crosswalk lines – and sometimes there is confusion about whether mid-block crossing at a particular location is legal without the lines. Crosswalk markings mean that drivers are legally required to yield to assertive pedestrians, but this expectation creates serious problems in the multiple threat scenario. Management of crossing distances, speeds, visibility, and gap opportunities is probably more useful for promoting safe crossing than increased enforcement of crosswalk laws on high speed multi-lane arterials.

    • NE2
      NE2 says:
      “Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.”

      At this point on Aloma, for example, the nearest traffic signals – at Forsyth and Palmetto – are not at adjacent intersections, so one doesn’t have to use the crosswalk. Of course the legal right-of-way is different in the crosswalk.

      (By the way, an intersection is with a “highway”, which the law defines to include “every way or place of whatever nature when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic”. I’m not sure, but I believe this includes business driveways but not residential driveways.)

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        Tangerine Ave is an unsignalized road intersection. Its existence makes crossing anywhere between Forsyth an Palmetto legal. But peds have to yield to car traffic anywhere but the crosswalk. In the crosswalk, car drivers have to yield to peds. While there is no marked crosswalk at Tangerine, it still is an “unmarked crosswalk” with the same legal requirement at a marked one. (Though don’t count on LE or the courts to uphold that!)

        • NE2
          NE2 says:

          You’re right – I hadn’t realized that “unmarked crosswalks” were legally the same. I’m curious if it would apply if Tangerine were the entrance to a gated community (and thus not “open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic”).

      • Bill
        Bill says:

        For all practical purposes, legal but unmarked crosswalks are ineffective in providing protection to pedestrians. To extend that same ineffectiveness to a private driveway doesn’t accomplish anything. However, for purposes of the right of pedestrians to cross mid-block, a good intersection criteria might be anyplace FDOT or the governing jurisdiction decides a median break is necessary. What say?

        • NE2
          NE2 says:

          I agree that legal right-of-way is no consolation when you’re dead. But I find a certain pleasure in wanking about the finer points of law 🙂

          And it can help occasionally, if there’s not much traffic but there are police around, to know if a crossing is legal or not (note: not the same as whether one has right-of-way or not).

  2. Eli Damon
    Eli Damon says:

    I have harbored an idea for a while now about a way to get drivers to stop for pedestrians who are trying to cross the street. It involves the pedestrians carrying a 20′ steel pipe with a red flag on each end across with them.

    • Bill
      Bill says:

      Love that idea! Similar to the flag-carrying idea but with serious consequences for the motorist. Would contribute to the physical fitness thing as well. Not sure it would work with little old ladies pushing their walkers.

  3. Eliot
    Eliot says:

    Wow, that’s fantastic video.

    I have always been very assertive with crosswalks, knowing that I have the right to use it and make cars stop. But that road looks quite scary… I don’t know if I’d have the cojones to step out there.

    A painted crosswalk in Dallas that I regularly step out into with nearly blind faith is on Henderson Ave. It’s just two (large) lanes, but gosh it is hard to cross!! I’ve made a few calls about getting a speed bump or some signal there, but no one seems to care. One engineer told me that they couldn’t put a speed bump because it is an emergency path for fire trucks. Here it is on street view:

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Laura M
    Laura M says:

    Speaking of speed humps…I like the idea of improving the intersection with the RRFB (beacon), but one effective way of slowing traffic is to add a pedestrian table, not a speed hump, but just raise that area a bit to 1) make the pedestrian more visible and 2) slow the cars down a bit.

    We have these tables at Lynx Central Station, they’re really not that much higher than the roadway grade, but they help to funnel passengers to a single crossing point between platforms. It’s also more ADA compliant. To the naked eye you can barely tell they’re elevated. I’m sure FDOT would balk b/c of drainage issues. Which brings to mind – is this under FDOT jurisdiction, Winter Park’s or Orange County?

      • NE2
        NE2 says:

        Yes, it’s part of State Road 426, and functionally classified as Urban Minor Arterial. Most of the through traffic is probably avoiding tolls on 408. Maybe once the 408 construction is complete the state should pay for a weeklong study to see how much traffic shifts to the expressways if tolls are removed.

        Winter Park recently took over Orange north of Mills from FDOT and redesigned it, adding two midblock (or at least mid-large block) pedestrian crossings while keeping four lanes. (I can’t tell from aerials if they have traffic lights or warning blinkers.) Something similar might be possible on Aloma, even without a jurisdictional transfer. (Aloma east of Balfour is in unincorporated Orange County, not Winter Park.)

  5. Traci
    Traci says:

    That’s just crazy – I can’t believe that all those cars just keep flying through a crosswalk!!! Well, actually I can believe it, but it’s beyond ridiculous. Honestly, why do cities bother even putting a crosswalk in areas with speeds of 45mph when they know that it isn’t going to be enforced?? Reminds me of a street just a block from my house. We recently began discussing the possibility of a crosswalk, as there is a MARTA stop directly across from our neighborhood (on the opposite side of this busy street) and no way to access it without walking to a red light in either direction. That would mean walking a minimum of almost a mile rather than simply crossing the street!! I know the outcome would likely be the same even though the speed limit on this particular street is just 35mph (should be less, as it’s a residential area with several schools AND a university in it). Even with a 35mph limit though, cars regularly travel up to 60mph or more through there, so getting across a crosswalk would be difficult without police enforcement.

  6. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    I encountered some hostile motorists tonight when I tried to yield to pedestrians on Aloma. It was about 8 pm and I saw three cyclists off their bikes standing at the crosswalk at Magnolia Ave. (I think). Traffic was steady but not heavy and moving at 43 mph. I was traveling in the left lane and slowed to a stop when I saw the three cyclists standing at the crosswalk. In my rear view mirror, I watched the car behind me approach. When it appeared he wasn’t going to slow, I started pumping my brakes to alert him to my stop. Meanwhile, the cars in the right lane continued through the crosswalk, oblivious to the waiting pedestrians.

    Then the ugliness started. The guy behind me started honking his horn. Cars behind him approached and changed lanes so they wouldn’t have to stop. Some honked their horns at me. One lady rolled down her window and yelled at me.

    If someone had yelled “get on the sidewalk” I would have felt right at home.

    All the while, the bicyclists waiting to cross Aloma waited…and waited…and waited. No one stopped except me.

    Eventually, traffic cleared and they walked their bikes in front of me.

    Maybe these were young people who lost a high school friend a few weeks ago. Or maybe these were young people who learned last week how to safely cross a major road from Bill and Keri. Whatever their story, the fact that only one motorist stopped for them is a sad commentary on this community.

  7. JT
    JT says:

    Man, this is hard to watch. I see this happen at a couple of major mid block cross-walks here in Dallas. These cross walks have red lights like any road intersection, and people run them anyway. On more than one occasion, somebody stopping at the red light was treated to a blaring horn from the car behind them. Link to Google Streetview below. What’s funny is that this is right in front of our court house.,+dallas+tx&daddr=401+N+houston+st,+dallas+tx&hl=en&geocode=Fdid8wEdSD46-imZxNgpO5pOhjHqRBm0XG9MIw%3BFfo19AEd_c46-imh_JIbPplOhjFzKZyAUIoZPQ&mra=ls&dirflg=b&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=38.826758,79.013672&ie=UTF8&ll=32.778252,-96.806807&spn=0,0.001717&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=32.778252,-96.806807&panoid=1CEiZE4RH-VG-hUM7DSmuw&cbp=12,349.63,,0,30.3

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