YES Pedestrian

YES Pedestrian asks, how can we create a culture and design streets that encourage people to walk and to enjoy their mobility? How can we eliminate pedestrian-vehicular crashes? How can we eradicate vehicular intimidation? How can we calm traffic so that sidewalks again become community spaces?

YES Pedestrian could be a great band name, or a t-shirt slogan, because it is an idea that walking is a mighty show of human-power, is health-supporting and asserts environmental concern. Walking is also really affordable to people of all financial strata and a weaver of community fabric. Who wouldn’t want these things?

YES Pedestrian is a reminder to cross the street with aware intention. To be looking and clearly communicating with approaching drivers that it is their responsibility to yield and stop as soon as one foot leaves the curb. To not walk out in the street when a driver is already so close as would necessitate them slamming on the brakes to avoid a crash. This is a judgement that must be made by the person waiting on foot or in a wheelchair at the curb, but it cannot be expected to let drivers “forget” that it is their duty to yield. Pennsylvania (and most other states’) traffic laws give right-of-way to a pedestrian in the crosswalk at unsignalized intersections or when they have the “WALK” signal or parallel green light. Read more in “PA Pedestrian Laws Dissected”.

YES Pedestrian is what happens when we don’t want to say “No” to PennDOT’s R9-3 No Pedestrian Crossing signs. PennDOT’s Publication 236M, “Handbook of Approved Signs”, updated 02-12, says No Pedestrian Crossing signs are installed when “…there is existing or potential pedestrian activity…” and there is “…need to

PennDOT R9-3 Sign on Catasaqua Road in Hanover Township

restrict pedestrian movement…”, or that pedestrian crash history or geometry suggest that “…accommodation should not be installed”. This offers an ironic challenge: why limit pedestrian mobility at places where it might be really helpful to have it?

PennDOT District 5-0 Executive, Michael W. Rebert, P.E., provided insight about these signs in 2009, that they are used “…to indicate to pedestrians that there are no separate pedestrian accommodations to assist them to cross the roadway.” This could mean that pedestrians are on their own at these crossings and are not supported by the traffic engineers here.

Understandably, some intersections may pose challenges for road designers or may have a significant crash history, but shouldn’t we, the public and traffic engineers, together, work toward solutions that enhance, not restrict, mobility for those who travel on foot or wheelchair?

Design approaches include: high-visibility crosswalk pavement markings, curb extensions, shortened corner radii to encourage slower turning by drivers, street lighting (full-cutoff) and pedestrian push-button enabled warning lights in areas where they are not expected (not as effective in dense urban areas). Also, enforcement of pedestrian laws for drivers and pedestrians can be an effective tool for public awareness.

It should be a top priority to accommodate people who cross the street to a school, convenience store, supermarket or bus stop.

Locations for pedestrian problem-solving:

  • Greenwood Avenue @ William Penn Highway (Palmer Township) – all-way No Pedestrian Crossing signs near Easton High School and Weis Market

Props to CAT member, Barbara O. Rowley who challenged No Pedestrian Crossing signs in her neighborhood at Cedar Crest Boulevard and Tilghman Street in Allentown, which led to a redesign including new ADA sidewalks, crosswalks and pedestrian signals. A special thank you to PennDOT for making this work a priority and doing a neat job at that.

Contact CAT if you have pedestrian elation or concern in the Lehigh Valley.

Read more in “Crossing the Street Should Not Have to be a Protest” by John Schubert.

Leave a Comment