Bad Street Design Requires Constant Intervention

Yesterday, the Provo Police Department mentioned on its Facebook page that officers were out doing crosswalk enforcement on Center Street. With the bad weather, the police were trying to prevent kids from getting hit while walking to school.

Police patrol a crosswalk Thursday on Center Street.

The police should be commended for their efforts, which have been ongoing this year. Having covered police for the newspaper, I know they’re committed to making the area safer and trying to avoid the kinds of problems that left a Salt Lake boy dead earlier this week.

But unfortunately, the police are forced to spend their time and resources — and by extension the resources of the community — compensating for other people’s failures. In other words, if the street was designed better and didn’t lend itself to speeding and ignoring pedestrians, police wouldn’t have to keep patrolling the area so heavily.

A massive street with infrequent crosswalks can either lead to speeding and accidents, or it can be constantly patrolled. A better, more economic solution is to build streets where speeding can’t happen and where pedestrians are safe to cross. That’s not actually that hard to do; Provo pulled it off just a block to the east of the area in this picture.

Instead, however, they have to enforce laws that are thwarted by the composition of the street:

State law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the half of the roadway on which the driver is traveling. The law also requires drivers to yield to pedestrians approaching from the opposite side and who are close enough to be in danger.

Officers made thirteen traffic stops, issued nine citations, and four warnings. One driver came within six inches of the officer in the crosswalk without yielding. Drivers are urged to obey the law and yield to pedestrians.

The costs of poor street design vary. Sometimes people are injured or killed, as happened recently in Salt Lake. But more often, the community just has to constantly waste tax dollars solving problems that shouldn’t have existed in the first place. And I, for one, hope that in the future we have streets that protect pedestrians and actively discourage dangerous driving.

A couple leaves the farmer’s market in the middle of a block — where there isn’t a crosswalk — in the same area where police were patrolling Thursday. This street actively encourages this type of behavior, as well as dangerous driving.

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2 Comments

Filed under driving

2 responses to “Bad Street Design Requires Constant Intervention

  1. Pam Jones

    Amen to your comments. I’m one who knows this danger intimately. Let me add a few words of wisdom to drivers courteous enough to stop for pedestrians. Watch out for drivers behind you who don’t bother to see why you’re stopping; they might just pass you and run into the pedestrian themselves. Also, look for signs that the ped on the curb is actually ready to cross before you stop in the middle of the intersection with oncoming traffic. And the one that’s personal for me: Don’t drive with a frosted windshield or otherwise impaired vision!

  2. Pingback: Let’s Save Some Lives | (pro(vo)cation)

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