Desire Path Crosswalk

An interesting prototype design via the PFSK Conference for an “ergonomic” crosswalk that takes into account pedestrians’ natural inclinations to want to shorten the distance it takes them to cross the street (as someone once told me, ‘pedestrians are natural Pythagoreans’). I can foresee a problem with cars, who already stray into the crosswalk, having a bit of a problem lining up. And while I like the red/yellow LED light concept in theory, does it just lessen our tendency to look at the actual environment for safety cues?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 8th, 2010 at 12:04 pm and is filed under Pedestrians, Traffic Engineering, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Desire Path Crosswalk”

  1. Simon Says:

    I like the message this sends to car drivers – that pedestrian convenience is more important than making it easy for drivers to queue. It says that cars are not a natural fit on this road. I think this will have a positive affect on driver behaviour – it will slow traffic speeds and increase awareness of pedestrians.

  2. Michael D Says:

    If the “desire paths” are dependent on the stopping line for cars, then moving that line back would expand the pedestrian paths yet further from the intersection. Though maybe you could find something resembling a fixed point.

    Of course, add cyclists and right turns on red to this mix, and it doesn’t look all that feasible even in theory.

  3. Nick Says:

    While it is nice to see infrastructure designed for people that actually takes into account that people don’t walk at 90-degree angles, the implementation doesn’t quite go far enough. Notice the curve: there’s a lot of empty space between the zebra crossing and the stop line through which everyone will cross on foot anyway. Why not just keep the straight line but make the whole crosswalk wider? That is, effectively, what this design does.

    The desire to use the the shortest possible path extends beyond the limited means of cutting corners at cross walks. Here in Ottawa, it is routine behaviour for people to cross diagonally across intersections by taking account of the stopped traffic North-South (for example) and the gap in through-traffic East-West. Likewise, many people cross mid-block when there is a gap in traffic because it avoids having the wait for the light once at the intersection (I suspect crossing mid-block is also perceived to be safer since ther are fewer directions from which deadly cars can emerge).

    Trying to take the shortest path is actually a temporal exercise, not a spatial one. This design tries to account for a behavioural pattern without addressing the root (no pun intended) cause of the behaviour, namely the gross obstacle that is motor traffic to the person’s freedom of movement.

  4. Bossi Says:

    The LED issue would be glowing green for peds at the same time cars have a red… I’d be hesitant about the risk of cars misreading the crosswalk green as if their own green. And given the likely cost of installing & maintaining such a volume of LEDs within a road surface: there are a couple big reasons why the LED element may not be ideal.

  5. Jay Says:

    I like the idea of making crosswalks an organic shape. The convenience to pedestrians is less important than the ambiguous contour: this helps to reinforce that the way belongs to humans, and that cars are there on sufferance (this fact is one that motorist lose sight of very quickly.)

    I don’t think that the problem will ever be solved until we figure out a way to make pedestrians—at least intermittently—dangerous to motorists. I don’t know how to manage this from a practical level: retractable tire spikes? plainclothes policemen with clubs? The point is that the penalty needs to be swift and certain for the transgressing driver in order to change behaviors.

  6. HumansinDesign Says:

    Hi All,

    I have a response to this on my blog:

    Personally, I think it’s a good idea to ‘test’ and the gains could prove to be better than the losses. But to think that altering the environment WON’T alter people walking paths, I think, is naive.

    Let me know what you think! (And contribute a post to the blog if you like with the submit button)

    Humans in Design

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