January 4, 2019

Friday File: Drivers Complain Raised Crosswalk Slows Vehicles


Vancouver has been creating raised crosswalks for  twenty years. These are generally located near schools and are walkable speed humps that are at the same grade as the sidewalk on either side of the street. The raised crosswalk serve to  elevate the pedestrian, and slow vehicular traffic which should be travelling the posted school speed limit anyway. You have probably seen the raised crosswalks located outside the Vancouver Airport.

The first temporary raised crosswalk in Vancouver was installed by Neighbourhood Transportation Engineer Jim Hall on the east side of Emily Carr Elementary School near Oak Street and King Edward Avenue. The first permanent raised crosswalk (and here is the Council report written by Engineering Traffic Manager Winston Chou) is on east 22nd Avenue at Commercial Street, adjacent to Lord Selkirk Elementary.

The raised crosswalks clearly have a function of slowing traffic and allowing pedestrians to be more visible crossing a road. But take a look at this news report from Longmeadow Massachusetts where drivers are complaining that they are damaging their cars going over the raised crosswalk.  This crosswalk is located right beside a school, has  vivid green signs to alert drivers to slow down, and was built to slow cars to 35 miles per hour (roughly 52 kilometers per hour).

The town had installed the raised crosswalk with a Complete Streets grant with the goal to make it safer for pedestrians and students to cross this road. Town Manager of Longmeadow Stephen Crane stated “Every car that slows down to the right speed doesn’t bottom out. Cars that are being inattentive or going too fast may feel that raised crosswalk and may in fact hit the asphalt with the bottom of their car.”

And is that not the whole point, to ensure that vehicles are travelling the posted speed limit, and yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk? Even the local news in the YouTube link below presents only half of the picture, that of the aggrieved drivers speeding over the raised crosswalk. There are no interviews of people or children using the crosswalk, or any video of what the pedestrian experiences crossing at this location. And that needs to change to have streets that are for all users, not just motorists.

The town manager gets it. He’s talking about a radar speed sign at the location to alert drivers how fast they are travelling. Speed enforcement, a change in road design, and getting tough on driver behaviour makes streets  safer for vulnerable road users, prevents injuries, and saves lives.


Image: NACTO.org

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  1. There are better designs for crosswalks that can slow drivers down without damaging their suspensions. Speed tables have longer inclines to the crosswalk platform or table top. However 35 mph is almost guaranteed to kill a child if hit in that crosswalk.
    Some drivers will never slow down and blame any design that attempts to force them to.

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