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  1. #1
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    Why are intersections so primitive?

    I was almost mowed down this evening, as a pedestrian, at one of the monster intersections in NYC. We both had the light -- I was crossing in a North/South direction, and the cager was going North/South and attempting to make a left turn West.

    The fact we both had the light is an indication that the whole thing hasn't really been thought through.

    It was one of those situations where you're watching him, you're expecting him to hit the brakes, and he just doesn't. I put out my hand and stopped him, Superman-style. The only injury was a slight sprain (I hope) to the hand. Good thing one of us was paying attention, or I would've been toast.

    The whole design is so damn primitive. As society moves towards more drivers being imbeciles, and more tendency towards excessive rushing/multitasking, it's a wonder there aren't more accidents. There's gotta be a better way:

    * Pedestrian bridges
    * Motorized pedestrian "people-movers" that swoop you up and over the intersection
    * Car ramps so left-turning cars can swoop up and over everyone else
    * Making cars illegal
    * Traffic lights broken down into more increments: for instance I saw something out West once, where everything stopped except pedestrians could cross in all 4 directions. That worked pretty well out there.

    Ideas?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sportsman9 View Post
    * Traffic lights broken down into more increments: for instance I saw something out West once, where everything stopped except pedestrians could cross in all 4 directions. That worked pretty well out there.
    We've got one in a busy part of town and this actually takes the guesswork out of crossing the street (for pedestrians) and making turns (for drivers). Turning becomes much more efficient since there's no pedestrian traffic to wait for and pedestrians can cross with some peace of mind. I'd say it's good for busy intersections.

    Another suggestion is to build underground crosswalks, but I imagine this would take some major work.

  3. #3
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    Somehow our society has come to abide by the unwritten
    law that cars have the right-of-way in all situations.
    Since more people drive cars than walk or ride, this likely
    isnt going to change soon.

  4. #4
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sportsman9 View Post
    I was almost mowed down this evening, as a pedestrian, at one of the monster intersections in NYC. We both had the light -- I was crossing in a North/South direction, and the cager was going North/South and attempting to make a left turn West.

    The fact we both had the light is an indication that the whole thing hasn't really been thought through.

    It was one of those situations where you're watching him, you're expecting him to hit the brakes, and he just doesn't. I put out my hand and stopped him, Superman-style. The only injury was a slight sprain (I hope) to the hand. Good thing one of us was paying attention, or I would've been toast.

    The whole design is so damn primitive. As society moves towards more drivers being imbeciles, and more tendency towards excessive rushing/multitasking, it's a wonder there aren't more accidents. There's gotta be a better way:

    * Pedestrian bridges
    * Motorized pedestrian "people-movers" that swoop you up and over the intersection
    * Car ramps so left-turning cars can swoop up and over everyone else
    * Making cars illegal
    * Traffic lights broken down into more increments: for instance I saw something out West once, where everything stopped except pedestrians could cross in all 4 directions. That worked pretty well out there.

    Ideas?
    What I don't understand is how you both "had the light." I suppose you had a walk signal and the motorist had a green... but none the less was obligated to still check the crosswalk before turning.

    One step beyond that, is right turn on red, where the motorist has a true tred and yet fails to check to their right before making the turn... and probably never stopped while doing so.

    As far as a "more advanced intersection," I saw something like this in Barcelona Spain... the corners were cut at the intersection, so rather than a large square, the intersection was an octagon. The cut back corners meant that auto drivers had clear lines of visions at cross walks and bike lanes, long before actually crossing into the center of the intersections. Seemed to work pretty well.

  5. #5
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    where everything stopped except pedestrians could cross in all 4 directions.
    We have 1 intersection like this right by my house. I don't know of another one in the area. It works REALLY well although it does delay the motor traffic by 20 or 30 seconds, so I expect it to be removed lol!

  6. #6
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    I was looking at FARS data http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/States...llVictims.aspx for person types and for the combined % of traffic fatalities of bike/peds New York is the worst state (or #2 if you count DC)

    I saw some engineering contest for designs and one I though was pretty nifty was all the left turns were grade separated on an upper deck of the intersection.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    We've got one in a busy part of town and this actually takes the guesswork out of crossing the street (for pedestrians) and making turns (for drivers). Turning becomes much more efficient since there's no pedestrian traffic to wait for and pedestrians can cross with some peace of mind. I'd say it's good for busy intersections.

    Another suggestion is to build underground crosswalks, but I imagine this would take some major work.
    In idea that sounds good on the surface, but fails in all but a very few cases. Pedestrians don't like over or underpasses. It is considerably more work to walk up and down. Add in that in almost all cases there is not constant pedestrian traffic these become havens for everything from homeless to beer swilling teens. This is not theory, it is experience. Cities all over have actually 'boarded over' underground crosswalks for these reasons.

  8. #8
    Back after a long absence joelpalmer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    We've got one in a busy part of town and this actually takes the guesswork out of crossing the street (for pedestrians) and making turns (for drivers). Turning becomes much more efficient since there's no pedestrian traffic to wait for and pedestrians can cross with some peace of mind. I'd say it's good for busy intersections.
    There's one like that in the Oakland CA Chinatown area. Interesting thing about that one is it also has crosswalks running diagonal, since there's no traffic why not?
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  9. #9
    Dubito ergo sum. patc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sportsman9 View Post
    Ideas?
    Left-turn lane with traffic sensor - triggers a protected left turn phase. Problem solved.

    A grid of one-way streets also reduces the conflicts. I like that layout, but most people here seem to hate it.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patc View Post
    Left-turn lane with traffic sensor - triggers a protected left turn phase. Problem solved.

    A grid of one-way streets also reduces the conflicts. I like that layout, but most people here seem to hate it.
    IF you actually get a grid where all the streets go through I'd say this can work. One way streets as implimented in Los Angeles sucks. Drive or ride down a 2 way street and then 1 block before you get where you are going it turns 1 way (of course the wrong way). Then every time you have almost made it back to the street you find that next to last turn you can't make because the streeet is one way (of course the wrong way).

    Doesn't take many of these to more than makeup for any advantages of one way streets.

  11. #11
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by patc View Post
    Left-turn lane with traffic sensor - triggers a protected left turn phase. Problem solved.

    A grid of one-way streets also reduces the conflicts. I like that layout, but most people here seem to hate it.
    The idea is to reduce time at lights and separate phases increases the time at the light. Everyone is just supposed to dance through all the cars. That's American safety for ya, require air bags and seat belts for the motorists and everyone else just run for your lives (see my avatar.)

    I also love one way streets but apparently there is a movement among the new urbanists that clams that two way streets are slower and thus safer. I donít like that at all.
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  12. #12
    Dubito ergo sum. patc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    IF you actually get a grid where all the streets go through I'd say this can work. One way streets as implimented in Los Angeles sucks.
    Our downtown grid is pretty consistent. Major roads are usually 2-way, everything else is alternating 1-ways. The only time a road changes is when it dead-ends (think about a dead-end one-way...). I like it well enough, but for some reason a lot of drivers complain about the "extra hassle".

  13. #13
    Dubito ergo sum. patc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Car View Post
    The idea is to reduce time at lights and separate phases increases the time at the light.
    Ottawa is the opposite - the policy seems to be to cram right and left turn lanes in whenever possible. Every new or re-fit intersection gets traffic loops. A lot of local traffic management too - drives people new to Ottawa nuts to see all those "no right/left through except bus/bikes Mon-Fri etc." signs.

  14. #14
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    What do you mean pedestrians don't like under- or overpasses? What choice is there? As a pedestrian I neither like nor dislike them. They just are. It's the same attitude I've come to take on my bike. I don't hate hills. They just are.
    ~Diane
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    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  15. #15
    Thread Killer evblazer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sportsman9 View Post
    * Making cars illegal
    I worked in NYC for years and it is the most pedestrian friendly place I have ever been (I haven't been outside the US) and has more pedestrians then I have ever seen.

    You have crosswalks. You have signals. Heck you have hoardes of pedestrians that people driving expect to be crossing. The chap who nearly ran you down was probably bluffing you. I don't think your hand would have stopped his vehicle if he had not seen you and expected to have to back down, unless you neglected to mention being thrown over the guys hood or taking a ride on it as he passed under your outstretched arm.

    Stamford Connecticut had an idea a long long time ago of pedestrian bridges between buildings. There were a few building built with the lobby on the 3rd floor specifically for that purpose but it never happened. It was before my time but alot was blamed on the expense and minor utility of the project. For a few intersections in NYC it might help but what do you do with all the others?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes View Post
    What do you mean pedestrians don't like under- or overpasses? What choice is there? As a pedestrian I neither like nor dislike them. They just are. It's the same attitude I've come to take on my bike. I don't hate hills. They just are.
    Underpasses get: used by beggars; used as urinals; lighting goes out/is vandalised; they're not cleaned frequently; graffitti sprayers can operate in them easily; many women feel threatened by being out of sight of people generally and cities have been closing them and replacing them with the original surface crossings.

    Overpasses are a pain for: parents pushing babies/toddlers; older people with health problems; giving idiots the chance to drop/throw things on cars/cyclists; can be more exposed to the weather than street level crossings.

    They are a 50s/60s "solution" to the "problems" caused to drivers by inconsiderate pedestrians wanting to cross the road and thereby holding them up. Pedestrians' right to cross the road long predates the invention of the internal combustion engine and should be upheld, not pushed out of sight.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    In idea that sounds good on the surface, but fails in all but a very few cases. Pedestrians don't like over or underpasses. It is considerably more work to walk up and down. Add in that in almost all cases there is not constant pedestrian traffic these become havens for everything from homeless to beer swilling teens. This is not theory, it is experience. Cities all over have actually 'boarded over' underground crosswalks for these reasons.
    Sure, those are valid points but I wouldn't expect underpasses to be used at every crossing. The 2 examples I've seen that work well are in Chicago and Atlanta. The former ran under Lake Shore Dr. to get to the museums/Soldier Field and the latter was under Hank Aaron Dr. to Turner Field. They don't make use of steps which is convenient (although they take up a lot of space).

    On a side note, the problem with overpasses are that they're a blight on the landscape (sometimes rusted hunks of metal and wire mesh) and they need to be tall enough in order to provide clearance.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by evblazer View Post
    Stamford Connecticut had an idea a long long time ago of pedestrian bridges between buildings. There were a few building built with the lobby on the 3rd floor specifically for that purpose but it never happened. It was before my time but alot was blamed on the expense and minor utility of the project. For a few intersections in NYC it might help but what do you do with all the others?
    Good point to bring up. I've used these in Atlanta and Boston and they certainly get the job done, but they're more like pedestrian highways as opposed to directly solving intersection crossings.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by v6v6v6 View Post
    Sure, those are valid points but I wouldn't expect underpasses to be used at every crossing. The 2 examples I've seen that work well are in Chicago and Atlanta. The former ran under Lake Shore Dr. to get to the museums/Soldier Field and the latter was under Hank Aaron Dr. to Turner Field. They don't make use of steps which is convenient (although they take up a lot of space).

    On a side note, the problem with overpasses are that they're a blight on the landscape (sometimes rusted hunks of metal and wire mesh) and they need to be tall enough in order to provide clearance.
    I'd agree, they can work in some places. Ballparks and train stations are an obvious case where they can work. And any strange intersection is a candidate, but with thought. But many sites that one thinks might work, and even would have worked if facilities were originally put in fail because it is almost impossible to put anything in without major disruption of traffic, and the traffic load is what makes the idea attractive to start with.

  20. #20
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    Bridges cost money and and around here, they're usually deserted esp. the ones that cross the interstate. The answer is to have a cop sit and give out tickets. It's a really fund raiser for the department.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sportsman9 View Post
    I was almost mowed down this evening, as a pedestrian

    * Pedestrian bridges
    * Motorized pedestrian "people-movers" that swoop you up and over the intersection
    * Car ramps so left-turning cars can swoop up and over everyone else
    * Making cars illegal
    * Traffic lights broken down into more increments: for instance I saw something out West once, where everything stopped except pedestrians could cross in all 4 directions. That worked pretty well out there.

    Ideas?

  21. #21
    Arrogant Safety Nanny
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    Here's some information on the Las Vegas Strip pedestrian bridges. They have escalators for pedestrians that don't want to use the stairs, and elevators for those unable to use the escalators or stairs.

    http://www.walkinginfo.org/pedsafe/c....cfm?CS_NUM=10

    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/EIHD/vegas.htm

    An interesting quote from the FHWA page:

    "Since the pedestrian bridges opened, the number of vehicles using the intersection has increased by nearly 40 percent."

  22. #22
    Senior Member StrangeWill's Avatar
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    Traffic lights are built on the cheap, I look at how inefficient they are at moving vehicles and people while waiting at lights and think of interesting algorithms that would improve traffic and pedestrian flow at the same time (using networking, car counting, logs of traffic densities at times of day, etc.), however it will not be restructured till it strains the system and MUST be reconstructed.

  23. #23
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    Oh, I see. You are talking about pedestrian overpasses not the general kind. Not all pedestrian crossings are that bad but some are. I think part of the problem is that there aren't enough pedestrians. If there were, nobody would take a leak or sell drugs because there wouldn't be any privacy.
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  24. #24
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by evblazer View Post
    I worked in NYC for years and it is the most pedestrian friendly place I have ever been (I haven't been outside the US) and has more pedestrians then I have ever seen.
    The interesting thing I've noticed about NYC is that pedestrians still look both ways before crossing the street, and they're not about to consciously step in front of an oncoming car, either. Neither of those things happen very often in DC, though.

    I've been in a few places in Europe, and one general theme (if you can call it that) of mid- to large-sized intersections is that pedestrian traffic is pretty tightly controlled. Say you have a simple (and rare, actually) 4-way intersection; there will be handrails blocking pedestrian access from the edge of the ped crossing itself, extending about twenty feet along the curb. If you want to cross at such an intersection, there's really no other way to go except in the crosswalk.

    Peds also have their own lights for these crosswalks, and if you've seen the complexity of many of these intersections, you'll be glad to have them, too.

    Pedestrians also seem to understand that drivers won't necessarily see them, and they'll make an effort to stay out of the street. DC pedestrians don't understand this, but most NYC peds grasp the concept.

  25. #25
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sportsman9 View Post
    Ideas?
    Look out for #1.
    No worries

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