Mid-Block Crosswalks Help Reorient the City in Favor of Pedestrians

In Philadelphia, letting pedestrians cross at more places helps challenge the norms that privilege cars.
February 13, 2019, 9am PST | Camille Fink
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Paul Sableman

Inga Saffron writes about mid-block crosswalks in Philadelphia, a strategy that helps prioritize pedestrians by giving them more locations to cross streets. Corner crosswalks are designed around vehicle traffic, while mid-block crosswalks better reflect how and where people want to use streets.

So far, many of these crosswalks in Philadelphia have been private projects. Comcast is behind one of the best, says Saffron — a mid-block crosswalk connecting two towers that many employees move between:

Flashing lights attached to poles alert motorists to slow down as they approach the unusual crossing. The street on both sides of the walkway also has been paved with rough granite blocks, another traffic-calming measure. Instead of simply painting black-and-white stripes in the street, Comcast installed bricks treated with a glazed, reflective coating in those colors.

The city says the budget for such street improvements is limited, and justifying the investment in the crosswalks in Philadelphia neighborhoods has been hard. Still, transit advocates say that they are needed at locations throughout the city where crossing is dangerous or pedestrians have limited options.

"It’s always been human nature to seek out the shortest path between Point A and Point B. If Philadelphia is going to be the walkable city we claim it is, then we have an obligation to make it safe, no matter where people insist on crossing the street," argues Saffron.

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Published on Thursday, February 7, 2019 in The Inquirer / Philly.com
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