We’ve got a problem with crosswalks and it’s at least partially a design problem.
Last night yet another pedestrian was hit and killed by a car in a Halifax crosswalk. The Halifax Examiner first bought this to my attention by consistently covering how often pedestrians are struck and killed in Halifax. It’s way too often.
There have been some efforts to improve crosswalk safety. Flags and lights are good but have obvious drawbacks. The lights are expensive to roll out widely and are often hard for people to access or activate in the winter. Especially those with disabilities. The flags put the burden of safety on pedestrians.
One major aspect hasn’t been looked at. The design of crosswalks and crosswalk signage. They need to be redesigned.
Current crosswalk signs most closely resemble speed limit signs and in no way communicate the rules of operation.
Any obstruction of the image (snow, dirt, ice, glair etc.) means it’s identical to a speed limit sign. To drivers, this means ‘proceed at full speed.’
Crosswalk signs should be easily identifiable and clearly communicate that drivers need to stop to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Here is what the sign should look like.
A yield sign means you must slow down or stop if necessary and yield the right-of-way to traffic in the intersection. These are also the rules of a crosswalk. If we’re actually serious about pedestrian safety crosswalk signage should be redesigned to reflect this. This new design leverages a behavior drivers are already used to and applies it to crosswalks where it is needed.
Sequence of Cognition
When looking at visual symbols like signs your brain breaks down the information in a very consistent and orderly way. This is called the Sequence of Cognition. Your mind starts with shape, then color and lastly form. As you can see below the current crosswalk sign looks the same as
You can see at the first stage of viewing this new sign it’s identifiable as a yield sign. Even when completely obscured by snow or dirt it communicates that drivers must yield to anyone present at this intersection.
This is an easy and inexpensive way to save lives and there’s no reason not to start today. I’d love to hear what you think.
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