Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Treatise on Raised Crosswalks

One of the major concerns I have noticed in many residential neighborhoods is the lack of awareness around intersections, especially in regards to obeying stop signs. Too often drivers view stop signs as a suggestion rather than traffic code. For instance, recently in Hampden, stop signs were added at 36th St. and Elm Ave. and at 34th St. and Chestnut Ave. While many looked at this as a great example of traffic calming, many resident complained because it interfered with long standing driving patterns. Clearly it's hard to win.

Now this brings me to my point: raised crosswalks. Baltimore has already invest in speed humps, which are effective at traffic calming, but can still be abused since one can run a car over them above the posted speed with little inconvenience.  However, as far as I know, Baltimore has not taken the next step of integrating this at crosswalks.

stepping stones in Pompeii 
The concept of these go as far back as Roman antiquity. Where stepping stones were placed in the thoroughfare so that pedestrians were able to safely cross the street without having to step down into the muck that frequently ran through Roman streets. The stones were spaced to allow the wheels of carts and chariots to pass around them.

photo from streetswiki
Raised crosswalks are a good idea not only because they slow traffic coming up to intersections or at a designated a pedestrian crossing, but also make pedestrians more visible since they are not stepping down into the street. For ADA purposes they can be easier to navigate than curb cuts and ramps. However they can have an impact on storm water drainage and emergency response vehicles so the placement and construction have to be thought through. Regardless this would be a great addition around city schools, parks, and other places where traffic can and should be slowed, to give pedestrians an easier opportunity to safely cross the street.

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