Salt Lake City’s crosswalks are not working

A while back I posted a picture of a truck that pulled way up into a crosswalk in downtown Salt Lake City. The truck came within inches of a pedestrian.

In the time since that post, Eric Harker has documented this unfortunately-common phenomenon with this picture that recently went up on Instagram:

Screen shot 2013-12-01 at 8.50.23 PM

As you can see, cars often pull up beyond the first painted line in a crosswalk, only stopping once they’re well inside the designated human space. This puts pedestrians at risk in specific instances, and I suspect that a culture of this behavior acts as a general deterrent to walking.

This also shows how drivers — which probably includes all of us at some point — typically respond to the way a street feels, rather than the way posted lines/signs/guidelines dictate. That’s often true with speed limits — we tend to drive as fast as a road’s width and surroundings suggest rather than the posted speed limit — but this is another, potentially dangerous example of how design, not rules, determines behavior.

That means that while more and better pedestrian-oritented signage and traffic enforcement would be welcomed in Salt Lake City, the real solution to this problem will need to involve a design element as well.




  1. Erik

    I’ve seen some crazy cool designs for crosswalks out there, a lot of fun artsy ones, but those and even placing bricks in the crosswalk itself to create a texture is still too late in the game.

    This is the lack of engineer in me speaking, but I wonder what would happen if you brought the street lights themselves in front of the crosswalk. Since essentially you are looking at the light itself and drawn into it, by putting it before harms way I could see it reducing both pedestrian accidents and crashes in the intersection itself.

    When I’m playing the should I slow or should I go game with yellow lights, I’m usually going to be the jerk in hanging my nose in the crosswalk. If I have to stop before the light to see when I can go next, then I’m going to be more prone to being in the best position to see the light – which would also be well before the crosswalk.

    • countingpantographs

      In Germany most traffic lights are right above the stop line, which definitely gives drivers an incentive to come to a stop BEFORE the crosswalk. I like the idea, but it would take a major paradigm shift to implement it.

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