by Jenna Mousseau, Outreach Specialist The Orange County Library System is a hub for everyone…
Whether walking, biking, or rolling across the street, our crosswalks should be safe for everyone. In many cases, very simple changes can have a lasting impact in improving crosswalk safety—changes that allow drivers to see pedestrians sooner and improve infrastructure for walkers and rollers who are crossing the roadway.
Examples of such improvements can be seen at E. Michigan Street and Cayman Way in Orlando, which the Best Foot Forward program has been monitoring over the past four years. During that time, the City of Orlando has made several engineering upgrades to improve the pedestrian experience, giving the crosswalk much–needed visibility to drivers and built-in safety for walkers. These improvements include:
- Lane Markings: The first improvement made by the City of Orlando was adding PED XING markings to the lanes to alert drivers to proceed with caution for pedestrians crossing ahead. A long stop bar was added across the traffic lanes along with an adjacent sign instructing drivers to stop for pedestrians. The combination of the sign and stop bar encourages drivers to come to a full stop prior to the crosswalk, giving pedestrians plenty of space to safely cross.
- Accessibility in Mind: Engineers moved the crosswalk backward and created new curb ramps facing Michigan Street. This change shortened the crossing distance for pedestrians and made the crosswalk more accessible for people with disabilities. Before the crosswalk was moved, pedestrians had to first walk out onto Cayman Way to use the Michigan Street crosswalk. The original sidewalk also had no tactile warning surfaces, which are used to alert the vision-impaired of approaching streets and grading changes. Engineers added these tactile surfaces to the sidewalk ramps in both directions.
- Pedestrian Refuge Island: Engineers also extended the center median to create a safe pedestrian refuge. You have likely come across this feature regularly without much thought, but they are a result of smart engineering to make crosswalks safer. Pedestrian refuge islands are designated places to walk within the raised median that divides traffic. They promote safer crossings by protecting pedestrians from vehicles that are travelling in opposite directions.
- Bulb-outs: The last improvement was painting bulb-outs (aka curb extensions) at the street corners. Bulb-outs increase the turn radius needed by a driver to complete a turn, which reduces their speed. Bulb-outs also increase pedestrian visibility by improving sightlines for the driver. The City of Orlando painted these instead of building out the curb so that large trucks could still turn safely without running over a raised surface. In that regard, this improvement was a win for both pedestrians and for large trucks.
Roadways are a shared space for drivers, walkers, and rollers. In addition to educating drivers and pedestrians on what actions they can take to be safe on the road, a bit of smart planning and low-cost, high-impact changes to physical roadways can go a long way. These changes can help to improve visibility, create accessible infrastructure, and reduce driver speed, making our roadways a safer place for everyone who utilizes them. The City of Orlando has demonstrated how implementing these types of improvements can create lasting change in our community.