Seniors at Lakeside Retirement Residence in Alcona have petitioned for a crosswalk that would allow them to cross safely to businesses on the north side of Innisfil Beach Rd. (full disclosure: a family member is a resident there) A quick internet search shows that seniors across the country petition for this amenity so regularly it makes you wonder why it isn’t mandatory.
Town Council had a reasonable solution in their lap when they were planning the Innisfil Beach Rd urbanization project. This would have been the ideal location for a raised median with a cross-over ramp through the center allowing seniors with walkers to safely navigate their way across the street at their own pace. The median would serve as a pedestrian safety island.
Considering that Council wasted $100,000 to rip up significant portions of the completed project, undoing years of planning, public consultation and consensus, and marring the streetscape in the process, spending about $50,000 to accommodate our seniors seems like money well spent. (Note to business owners: the seniors want to cross to spend money at your shops and services).
There are a few reasons why a median might be a better solution than a conventional crosswalk. Ontario legislation makes it illegal for drivers to enter a crosswalk until the pedestrian has reached the opposite side of the street. The same does not apply where a median divides traffic into two opposing directions.
While crosswalks improve pedestrian safety, they may also create some potential hazards: (How do you get a crosswalk installed, City News, August, 2006)
- May cause pedestrians to have a false sense of security and place themselves in an unnecessarily hazardous position with vehicular traffic
- May cause the pedestrian to think that the motorist can/will stop in all cases, even when it is unsafe/impossible to do so
- May cause a greater number of rear-end collisions, as pedestrians misjudge the intentions of motorists and don’t wait for appropriate gaps in traffic
- May cause an increase in both pedestrian and motorist injuries
- May foster disrespect for all pedestrian regulations and traffic controls if installed when not warranted.
Compare this with a “Raised Median / Pedestrian Refuge” (US Federal Highway Administration):
“Crossing the street can be a complex task for pedestrians. Pedestrians must estimate vehicle speeds, adjust their own walking speeds, determine adequacy of gaps, predict vehicle paths, and time their crossings appropriately. Drivers must see pedestrians, estimate vehicle and pedestrian speeds, determine the need for action, and react … Raised medians and pedestrian refuge islands allow pedestrians to cross one direction of traffic at a time. This significantly reduces the complexity of the crossing. They also provide a space to install improved lighting at pedestrian crossing locations.”
How many of you noticed the sign at the entrance to Crossroads Plaza? “Why Leave Town? Thank-you for Shopping Local” Chances are, once people are in their cars they are just as likely to be heading out of town as shopping in it.
Maybe our senior residents have handed Council an opportunity to redeem themselves by planning streets for use by everyone including pedestrians.