Last week as Laura and I were leaving the farmer’s market, we noticed a booth and some balloons in the grocery store parking lot across the street. We wanted to check it out, but not badly enough to walk to a cross walk, cross the street, then walk back to the booth in the middle of the block.
But while Laura and I opted against crossing the street, another couple wasn’t so easily deterred:
This little episode illustrates the economic and safety issues presented by the kinds of long blocks criticized by Jane Jacobs. Obviously, these sorts of blocks make nearby attractions difficult to access and deter potential customers, which is exactly what happened to me and Laura.
A shorter block with more frequent cross walks would have encouraged more people to check out the booth across the street. It also would have reduced incentives for crossing in the middle of traffic, consequently increasing safety. This incident is thus very similar to the problems I identified on Freedom Blvd in this post, though Center Street isn’t nearly as bad as that area.
The couple in the pictures obviously gave in to the time-based incentives for crossing mid block — they needed to get across and that was the fastest way to do it. Spend any time at all in Provo, and you’ll see this happen on many major streets. I see it every day on Freedom, and any time I go to the 100 Block.
We can obviously criticize people who break the law and jaywalk — though jaywalking stems, of course, from laws invented by car companies — but the reality is that if there are long blocks with attractions on either side, someone will always be jaywalking and consequently getting hit by cars. I say rather than shake our fists at law breakers, it’s better to remedy the circumstances that encourage law-breaking.
As the pictures above illustrate, that generally means offering people more, better, and safer ways to get across the streets.