Why did the pedestrian cross the road?
Streets are meant to connect us, but what happens when they end up dividing communities?
Using social media and input from readers, Streetsblog complied a list of America’s least crossable streets. Not exactly a scientific study, the online news source used reader opinion and Google Maps to plot out routes where crossing certain streets either means making an unsafe dash, or walking exhausting distances to get to a crosswalk.
Three of the worst offenders include:
Cincinnati: MLK Boulevard at Vine Street
Streetsblog readers pointed out that a key stretch of Cincinnati’s MLK Boulevard functions more like a moat than a street. On one side of the street is a Hampton Inn where visitors to the University of Cincinnati, located directly across the street, stay. To access one from the other, a visitor must walk a quarter of a mile to the nearest crosswalk, and then back again.
West Palm Beach: North Military Trail at Annette Street
Streetsblog calls North Military Trail an uncrossable barrier – unfortunate, as it runs parallel to Northwood University. If a student wanted to walk from the local Dollar General to the pizza place across the street, he or she would have to walk 1.36 miles to access a crosswalk.
Cleveland: Carnegie Road at East 9th Street
Running south of downtown, Carnegie Road is a high-speed off ramp to other parts of the city, according to Streetsblog. Were a visitor to walk from the Hilton Garden Inn to the Aladdin Restaurant located almost directly across the street, he or she would have to take a quarter of a mile hike down to the crosswalk and back.
These are extreme examples, and not representative of these cities’ walkability as a whole, but Streetsblog says these streets are examples of a nationwide epidemic – planning city streets with vehicles taking highest priority.
One cause of this prioritization? Fire departments. According to CityLab, a division of The Atlantic, fire departments across the country have fought to keep streets wide and, as a consequence, less walkable.
Fire departments want wide streets so engines can travel freely. CityLab reports that in San Francisco, the fire department is asking that all new roads, including residential side streets, be 30 percent wider than the code minimum of 20 feet of street clearance.
Wider roads are less safe, particularly for pedestrians, as traffic speeds increase with more space, according to CityLab. And while the argument can be made that slowing fire engines down by narrowing streets isn’t good planning, the blog argues undermining neighborhood fabric with high-volume, fast-moving traffic isn’t the right solution, either.
To read more about cities achieving a proper balance, read Getting downtown back on its feet, American City & County’s recent coverage of walkable communities.