Two cheers for midblock crossings

Michael Lewyn's picture

A few weeks ago, I read a newspaper article commenting on a pedestrian who was killed in a car crash; the article suggested "educating pedestrians to cross at intersections."  But sometimes, some pedestrians are actually safer crossing mid-block.

Here's why: when I cross at the intersection nearest my suburban apartment, I have to look for traffic coming from a variety of directions: not just oncoming drivers in both directions who might run red lights, but also drivers turning from the corners of the intersection.

By contrast, if I cross in midblock, I only have to look at traffic coming in one direction at a time: in the northbound lane I look for traffic heading north, in the southbound lane for traffic heading south.  So if there's not any traffic, I run for it.

On the other hand, midblock crossings are not for everyone.  In the suburban area where I live, traffic goes very fast when it goes- but at times congestion is low enough that there are no cars nearby.  So crossing anywhere near a car is dangerous because any crash is likely to be fatal - while on the other hand when there is no nearby traffic, crossing is safe regardless of the location.  

On the other hand, in a more urban and/or congested environment where traffic flows more evenly, there will always be a few cars near you in the oncoming lane- so in that situation, midblock crossings are less safe.  (And the slower traffic means that even if you are in the intersection, your risk of being seriously injured by a crash is lower).

And if you are too young or too visually impaired to see whether there are cars nearby, there is, alas, no good alternative to relying on traffic signals.
Michael Lewyn is an assistant professor at Touro Law Center in Long Island.


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