June 18, 2019

Midblock Crossings, Raised Crosswalks, and StreetsBlog’s List of Best Pedestrian Practices


I have previously been writing about  midblock crossings and raised crosswalks on this blog as well as on Walk Metro Vancouver’s website.

There is always lots of discussion about midblock crossings, and the term “jaywalking” was developed in the 1920’s to refer to those pedestrians who darted mid-block instead of freeing up that road space for rapidly moving vehicles. Pedestrians were moved to intersections controlled by engineering traffic standards, as the assumption was that traffic engineers were better judges of pedestrian safety than the pedestrians themselves.The American  Federal Highway Administration (FHA) striped highway pavements with the assumption that pedestrians are safer crossing at intersections with traffic lights and with all kinds of turning movements versus mid block two-way vehicular traffic.

I have also written about my involvement with the installation of the first permanent raised crosswalk in Vancouver located at East 22nd Avenue and Commercial Street north of Lord Selkirk Elementary School. The raised crosswalk is a walkable speed hump that is at the same grade as the sidewalk on either side of the street. The raised crosswalk serves to  elevate the pedestrian, and slows vehicular traffic which should be travelling the posted school speed limit anyway. You have probably driven over the  raised crosswalks located outside the Vancouver Airport.

So how effective are mid-block crossings and raised crosswalks at making pedestrians safer, more comfortable and secure on the street?Angie Schmitt of StreetsBlog has been collecting data on pedestrians and crossing safely, and the statistics she has found are quite shocking. In looking at how many drivers yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk without a traffic signal or signage, she found that only 16 to 32 percent of drivers will stop for those pedestrians.

She’s  also created her top five list for pedestrian crossing improvements, and I  have included her thoughts and  illustrations below.

  1. Signs within a crosswalk
Photo: Greg Voltz
Photo: Greg Voltz

“Those little yellow “State Law Stop for Pedestrian” signs that sit right in the middle of the street are technically called R1-6 signs. They’re cheap and easy. But they shouldn’t be underestimated. They work…Cities should be installing these everywhere. Some of the most progressive cities are already doing so. Brookline, Massachusetts, for example, has installed 50.”


2. Rapid Flashing Beacon

Photo: FHWA

“That is a fancy word for flashing lights that warn drivers a pedestrian is trying to cross the street. They require pedestrians to press a button when they are waiting to cross…The Federal Highway Administration reports this treatment been shown to reduce pedestrian-car crashes 47 percent, A St. Petersburg, Florida, study cited by the local ABC affiliate found they improved driver yielding by an astounding 85 percent.”

3.  Raised Crosswalks

Photo: Safe Routes to School
Photo: Safe Routes to School








One of the best ways to make a mid-block crosswalk safer is simply lift it off the ground. Raised crosswalks are perfect for making pedestrians safer because they literally force drivers to slow down..A 2008 study by the Federal Highway Administration found these reduced vehicle-pedestrian crashes by 46 percent.”

4. Refuge islands

Photo: NACTO
Photo: NACTO

A great way to upgrade a mid-block crossing is to pour some concrete right in the middle and make pedestrians a refuge from traffic. Pedestrian refuge islands make crossing “easier and safer” for pedestrians, according to the National Association for City Transportation Officials, “because they reduce the exposure time experienced by a pedestrian in the intersection.”

5. Hawk Signals

Photo: Mike Cynecki via FHWA
Photo: Mike Cynecki via FHWA

]These operate like traffic lights, but they are used mid block specifically for pedestrian protection.HAWK signs are activated by a button.There’s good support for their safety benefits. The Federal Highway Administration says these have been shown to reduce pedestrian crashes 69 percent and overall crashes 19 percent.

You can read the full text of Ms. Schmitt’s article here.




























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  1. Surrey used to have crosswalks without beacons on some of the multi-use trail crossings of major streets like 72nd Avenue and 64th Avenue near 125 Street. Drivers didn’t stop for pedestrians despite having mid block refuges. Once beacons were installed drivers stop for pedestrians and cyclists on the far side of the road even before they even get to the relief island.

  2. I often cross Brunette Ave. one block east of Lougheed Hwy., Coquitlam as a detour of no shoulder section of Lougheed west bound. There, the rapid flashing beacons are equipped. But many car drivers ignore the beacons and keep driving through.
    One of the reasons, I think, is the poor placement of the beacons.

  3. Why pedestrians and cyclists have to be treated as a bunch of sheep?
    The ultimate solution is the drastic reduction in the numer of cars. That also helps to reduce air pollution. I’d see the ban on street parking. The purpose of the streets is for traffic, not for the storage space of cars.

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