Thursday, December 4, 2008

Extreme crosswalk geekery

I am about to get really crosswalk geeky on you:

There are a lot of different patterns used for crosswalks, all of which are intended to give pedestrians a clear, protected zone in which to cross a street. As I'm sure we've all observed, they can be used at intersections and at mid-block crossings. But what's the deal with all the different designs?

Okay, first, in Massachusetts, the "standard" design (and the one the state pays for when cities want to put in or repaint a crosswalk) is this:

There's one of these near my house, actually, I didn't realize until just a few months ago that this was a crosswalk at all -- I always figured that these were simply lines in intersections to tell cars where to stop, and I found them confusing when located mid-block. They're okay, I guess, but they're not very visible. Also, because they run perpendicular to traffic, they get worn and faded quite quickly. D

Even worse is the dashed style:

This one has all the disadvantages of the standard style, plus it's effectively pre-faded. Maybe the fact that it's dashed makes it more visible? I'm not sure. In any case, I don't like it. D-

Another that I don't see particularly frequently is the solid crosswalk:

This one is certainly more visually arresting than either the standard or the dashed. Sometimes I see these painted yellow, or with white borders and yellow fill. Not bad. It uses a lot of paint (or, more often, these days, thermoplastic), though, which is costly, needs a fair amount of maintenance, and might be slippery for both vehicles and pedestrians. C

The continental style is among the most commonly used in and around Boston, I think:

The stripes are attention-getting, and because they're oriented parallel to vehicular travel, they will be more durable over time. Vehicle tires will, at least some of the time, miss the markings, which should decrease skidding in cases where that material is more slippery than the pavement. Pedestrians also won't have to walk on a solid painted or plastic surface. B+

The ladder style has a lot of the same advantages:

The framing bars that run perpendicular don't, to my mind, add much, except a zone requiring more frequent maintenance. On the other hand, the kids I've worked with for Safe Routes to School liked the imagery of "climbing the ladder" as a reminder for them to stay within the crosswalk zone when crossing streets. And since the consequence of worn framing strips is that the ladder will simply look like a Continental style crosswalk, I suppose that's not a big deal. B

Zebra crosswalks have a certain visual appeal:

The problem, as you probably surmised, is that the angle means more wear over time. B-

So those are the most common crosswalk types I've seen out and about. But this post was actually inspired by a couple of new (to me) crosswalk styles that I think are pretty nifty:

First, there's the piano style:

The big win here is that you still have a very visible crosswalk, but by leaving extra room where most vehicle tires will wear, you cut down on any potential skidding and maintenance costs due to the markings getting worn down. Nice. A

In a different vein, you get the double ladder:

Instead of reducing skidding for vehicles, this one leaves an unmarked zones where pedestrians can walk and reduce potential slippage for them. What's not to like? A

Finally, putting those two good ideas together, there's the double piano:

It's visible. It experiences reduced wear and tear. It minimizes potential slipping and skidding for vehicles and pedestrians. This is a great crosswalk. A+

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