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Pedestrians: an afterthought for road design

Highways, streets and roads in this country are designed for one purpose only: the efficient movement of motor vehicles. Often they fail this essential purpose, as is witnessed by the 5.5 billion of hours wasted by congestion and traffic in 2011. And while interstate/controlled access highways are limited to vehicles only, the side streets and major thoroughfares in a town like Houston are occasionally used by pedestrians. Those roads are often designed to cause pedestrians accidents and deaths.

No, the highway department did not intend to for pedestrians to die in fatal motor vehicle accidents when they built many of these roads, but pedestrians were such a tertiary interest that they probably gave little thought to pedestrian movement around these roads.

On suspects that engineers rarely waked a road to develop a feel for how safe it would be to cross a four-lane road with dual left turn lanes and single right turn lanes, creating intersections eight-lanes or more wide.

Ironically, those most at risk to cross such behemoth-sized crosswalks are those who are most likely to need to use them, parents with small children and the elderly. The timing of these crosswalks often seem perfunctory, barely providing a healthy male with long stride enough time to cross, let alone a elderly person or a parent with a toddler.

Not only are crosswalks inadequately timed, they often are placed long distances from one another, tempting pedestrian to cross mid-block. On many 35 to 45 mph roads, traffic can be traveling at nearly highway speeds, meaning pedestrians can easily misjudge it they have get across the multi lane roads.

This is not a trivial matter, in the years 2000 to 2009, 47,700 pedestrians were killed in the U.S. In addition, almost 700,000 were injured.

Source: Center for Investigative Reporting, "Car is king in street design, to detriment of pedestrians," Zusha Elinson, April 30, 2013

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