Strong Towns member, Jonathan Holth (recently featured in an interview on the Strong Towns podcast), just wrote an op-ed for his local paper, the Grand Forks Herald, advocating for "Street design as if people matter." Pedestrian safety is a popular topic in his hometown of Grand Forks, especially with the new semester of school now in session. Jonathan writes:
Pedestrian safety at school crosswalks and nearby intersections has been a topic of conversation in Grand Forks lately. [... I've] seen a lot of potential solutions offered, ranging from hiring more crossing guards, to beefing up police patrols, to increasing fines for people who speed through school zones.
But one solution hasn't come up yet, and it's probably the most important one: better and safer street, intersection and crosswalk design.
Drawing on a recent Strong Towns article about traffic calming demonstration projects in St. Louis (featuring another Strong Towns member), Jonathan writes:
Recently, a group of St. Louis residents worked with the city to install speed bumps and public art near a school intersection that had a long history of accidents. With very little investment and a bit of creativity, the problem was solved.
Jonathan soundly rejects the idea that enforcement will solve the problem of speeding cars:
Show me an area where police need to continually set up to catch speeding drivers, and I'll show you a street design that encourages speeding and is unsafe for pedestrians.
He summarizes the problem with the way we have designed our streets in a clear and concise manner:
For decades, cities have adopted the same safety design principles for neighborhood streets that they've used for highways. On highways, wide shoulders and buffer zones are added to wide driving lanes to help drivers take corrective action if they veer off of the road at high speed. There are no pedestrians crossing highways, so pedestrian safety is not taken into account, and rightly so.
But on neighborhood streets, wide buffer zones and wide traffic lanes encourage drivers to drive fast, lowering awareness and decreasing reaction time. This is a problem when there are pedestrians present.
On neighborhood streets, lanes should be narrow, and buildings, trees and other amenities should be close to the street so drivers can see their surroundings clearly and get their sense of awareness raised.
We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Jonathan is a father and local business owner. He wants his children to be able to safely walk or bike to school, and he knows the economic value of safe, walkable streets too.
He concludes his op-ed:
We have a choice. We can build streets that are safe for pedestrians, or we can build them so that cars can move through at a rapid pace. A street can't do both. It simply doesn't work. In fact, trying to achieve both goals ends up accomplishing neither and puts people in danger.