Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Pedestrian Improvements

Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Pedestrian Improvements

Budgets are tight and people are still getting struck by cars, so let’s look at some low-cost, quick-to-install pedestrian improvements. Not after a year of study. Not by over-engineering a project until it’s unaffordable. Not by letting perfect get in the way of good enough. Let’s use these tested, vetted methods to make pedestrians safe and walking accessible to all in the Pike District.

WalkBoston created an excellent guide which you can read here at

Below are some of their ideas (if you don’t have time to look through the full WalkBoston guide.

Paint with a purpose

Well-marked crosswalks: Intersections and heavily used midblock crossings need wide, well-painted crosswalks. A 10-foot crosswalk is ideal. Keep the paint fresh to ensure visibility. Signs may be needed to make pedestrians aware of unexpected traffic movements such as right turns on red.

Lane markings: Painting fog lines – the road edge lines that define a single vehicle lane of 10 or 11 feet – helps reduce vehicle speeds. Stripes that mark parking lanes and bicycle lanes have a similar effect.

Curb bump-outs: Make streets narrower by painting a curb extension directly on the street. Bump-outs make walkers more visible, shorten crossing distances and provide larger waiting areas.

Tighter corners: A tight painted corner (think small downtown vs. highway interchange) makes drivers reduce their speeds when turning. This also shortens the crossing distance for walkers.

Improved visibility at intersections: “Daylighting” an intersection, as in the photo above, refers to providing clear sight lines between pedestrians crossing and drivers in cars. People walking and driving can see one another better if vehicles are parked farther back from corners and crosswalks.

Advanced yield “shark teeth” markings: Triangles painted directly on the street warn drivers of an upcoming crossing so they are reminded to slow down.

Add signs

In street yield to ped signs: A reflective, flexible sign in the middle of an unsignalized crossing reminds people driving that they must yield to people walking. These signs narrow travel lanes and slow traffic.

Pedestrian crossing signs: Roadside signs provide visual cues for drivers to slow down and look for people in crosswalks. They can be mounted on reflective posts or include flashing lights to improve their visibility.

Slow zone signs: Drivers can be warned that reduced speed limits are in place for schools, senior centers, parks, etc.

Wayfinding signs: These help people find their way around a community and encourage walking. They can include directional arrows, walk times and distances to local landmarks and services. Sign systems can be permanent or temporary.

Make streets lively

Parklets: Usually created in one or more on-street parking spaces, parklets create new sidewalk space for people to gather, sit or eat. Additionally, when people gather closer to the roadway, drivers automatically slow down. A parklet can be a seasonal and temporary installation, ideally located in a business district.

Pop-up parks: Often larger than a parklet and can enliven underutilized public sidewalks, streets, or plazas for people to use. For instance they might take over an entire street on a summer Sunday to encourage walking or create a place for seating and games. They are always temporary.

Benches: Places to sit allow old and young to eat, rest, talk, gather, enjoy the weather and read.

Trees & Planters: In addition to providing shade, beauty and improving environmental conditions, street trees are a useful safety tool, making streets feel narrower and slowing traffic. Planters create a safety buffer between vehicles and people walking.

Banners: Overhead banners help create a sense of place and a distinctive community character. They can add decorative elements to a streetscape and advertise events.

Lighting: Pedestrian-scale lighting (about 12–16 feet high) illuminates sidewalks, benches, bus stops and other amenities that make walking feel comfortable. Temporary holiday and event lighting creates an inviting sense of place.

Amy Ginsburg


One comment

Deborah Talley

I am 81 and have walked miles a day since my late thirties. I can attest to the fact that there are courteous drivers here who slow down and stop to let a pedestrian cross. And then, there are those in such a hurry they just blast ahead. Sadly, in my experience, women are the most frequent offenders, especially charging out of underground parking garages.

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