Urban design plays a critical role in pedestrian safety not only here in Washington State, but throughout the country (and world). Unfortunately, research and statistics indicate that some of the most common methods urban designers use when addressing pedestrian safety are not effective.
For example, studies have shown that most drivers will not slow down when approaching a crosswalk. Some will even speed up. This is the case regardless of whether there is a pedestrian who may be entering the crosswalk nearby.
According to “Dangerous by Design 2022”, a report from the Washington nonprofit Smart Growth America, most urban road designs are simply not pedestrian-friendly. Even if a crosswalk is marked, if it is on a side street, motorists are still likely to travel at fast speeds. Wide lanes simply promote faster driving.
This isn’t to say there are no potential solutions to this issue. In fact, in various towns and cities across the United States, it is being discovered that a somewhat unique approach to improving pedestrian safety may be surprisingly effective.
How ‘Asphalt Art’ Keeps Pedestrians Safe
The Asphalt Art Initiative is a program that offers grants for communities to modify dangerous streets with murals and other forms of art. For example, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, artists identified a high-traffic roadway and transformed it into an asphalt mural, with safe walking paths marked off.
A similar project has been completed at a dangerous crossing near an elementary school in Durham, North Carolina. Residents have modified the crossing so that it is now a colorful mosaic. According to residents, this change has yielded a decrease in potentially dangerous circumstances involving drivers and pedestrians by approximately 30%.
This is not an aberration or anomaly. At a five-way intersection in Lancaster, California, crosswalks have been shortened and replaced with new pedestrian spaces in the form of artistic designs created with asphalt staining techniques. Since these changes have been made, the average speed of drivers in the intersection has decreased by 20%. A 10% increase in drivers yielding to pedestrians at the intersection has also been observed.
Asphalt Art Initiative’s own review indicates that, overall, these programs can result in a 50% drop in pedestrian and bicycle accidents. This is remarkable, suggesting that communities in all parts of the US can theoretically improve pedestrian safety by simply decorating their streets with art.
It is not yet clear why asphalt art helps prevent accidents. Some believe that drivers who don’t slow down when they approach crosswalks are essentially on autopilot. Although the law may require them to reduce their speeds, they don’t think to do so. However, when they come across a surprising road design, they “snap out” of this autopilot mode. On top of that, street art can more clearly establish boundaries between pedestrian-friendly areas and motorist-friendly areas of a road.
All that said, it is an unfortunate truth that pedestrian accidents continue to occur at fairly high rates. If you have been injured in such an accident as the result of someone else’s negligence, you deserve to receive financial compensation for your medical bills and other such losses.