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Anatomy of a Dangerous Intersection

10:54 AM EDT on June 24, 2015

Image via Where the Sidewalk Starts
Image via Where the Sidewalk Starts
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Streets designed to facilitate fast driving are not suitable for safe walking.

Unfortunately, transportation engineers often don't design for safety unless a catastrophic event triggers public outcry. Katie Matchett at Where the Sidewalk Starts says the city of San Diego is planning changes at one intersection in an area where motorists routinely hit and injure people, but only after a driver killed an infant.

"We say it so often that it's cliche," writes Matchett, "but it shouldn't take the death of child to fix intersections that are so obviously dangerous."

Notice that the northbound right "turn" isn't really a turn at all, more of a channelized "veer" that aims high-speed traffic straight at a crosswalk. Moreover, the crosswalk is set back just enough from the intersection to make pedestrians less visible to drivers. This is a space designed for cars, and cars alone. Is it any surprise that people are hurt and killed here?

The most frustrating part is that there really isn't much purpose to this stretch of roadway, other than moving cars as quickly as possible at the expense of walkability and pedestrian safety -- a point neighbors have picked up on. They've asked the City to close down the road and make the entire space into a park. Let's hope the City listens, before someone else is killed at this crossing.

Even now it's not clear that San Diego officials are serious about fixing the crossing. A local TV station reports: "City officials say they are putting up another traffic signal and re-stripe the crosswalk, but neighbors do not think it will be enough."

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington on the power of positive transportation messaging, the League of American Bicyclists says small towns want better infrastructure too, and Enrique Peñalosa tells TheCityFix that the constant fear of dying in traffic is not a normal way to live.

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