Plainer is Safer?

Streetsblog is reporting that after removing railings and signage, the Kensington High Street in London is now twice as safe.

Does this operate along the same theory as removing traffic control devices to make drivers pay attention? If we make pedestrian feel less protected, do they pay more attention? How far do we go (I note that the median refuge has been retained)?

Would Interstate Ave be safer without all those railings around the MAX stops?

10 responses to “Plainer is Safer?”

  1. Gut response: Keep Interstate MAX railings around stations and the median chains that keep people from accessing the station by cutting through traffic lanes and crossing the tracks, in place. They work fine. Ain’t broke – don’t fixit. Londoners talk funny.

  2. On my recent trip to Germany, all train platforms, regardless of local or regional service, would not be protected at all. In fact, I would be waiting for my city rail (light rail) standing 3 feet from the edge of the platform when a bullet train going 375 kmh would blast by (not stopping or slowing down and with no warning) because they share tracks. The tornado like wind force of such a train passing by without notice was definitely enough for anyone to pay attention. FYI, trains of any type in Europe almost never use a horn or flashing lights upon intersections or stops, unlike our Amtrak and MAX who always seam to be leaning on their horn (or jingle). Portland could definitely be a test place for less signage for transit and auto traffic, but let’s start with educating the public first and making safety and common sense a part of our culture.

  3. Portland could definitely be a test place for less signage for transit and auto traffic, but let’s start with educating the public first and making safety and common sense a part of our culture.

    I’m not sure if Portland would be a keen place to start removing signage. As a Russian immigrant pointed out to me recently, and I absolutely agree, the nanny state is in full swing in Portland. People here RELY on being told what to do in so many ways. The individual responsibility that I know to exist in a non-nannied populace is vastly different than one that has been conditioned to just “follow the signs”.

    I’d bet in Portland there would be some pretty brash events that would occur. As for London, like Wells said, they talk funny. What applies to them doesn’t apply to us.

  4. I was joking about how Londoners talk funny. However, it’s no joking matter that Adron’s wisecrack about Portland supposedly being a ‘nanny state’ sounds more like nihilism.

    I’m reminded of Portland’s generous curb cuts at intersections. These ADA mandated curb cuts afford those in wheelchairs the means to cross streets. Are they too some nanny state annoyance? Should we bill wheelchair users a fee for their construction?

  5. The challenge is that someone will sue if the safety measures aren’t in place. That would be how the USA defines safety.

  6. The challenge is that someone will sue if the safety measures aren’t in place.

    I wonder if that is true and, if it is, then maybe we need to change the law to eliminate that possibility.

    There was a ludicrous discussion at TPAC over having a requirement in the RTP to have crosswalks at major transit stops. The question was about “mid-block” transit stops in some places in rural Washington and Clackamas countoes. The argument was that mid-block crosswalks were unsafe and the engineers might get sued if they put them there. Everyone acknowledged people would cross the street to get to the bus, the question was whether they should jaywalk at their own risk or there should be a marked crosswalk.

  7. Just to be clear, my point was about letting the possibility of lawsuits override good public policy. But I think the “safety” issue needs to be approached carefully. Statistically, very few pedestrians are hit crossing a freeway, but that isn’t because its safe.

  8. I didn’t hear the TPAC discussion, but it seems the intent in the RTP was that you should be able to cross the street to get to the bus. If the traffic engineers say mid-block crossings are unsafe, then let’s either move the bus stops to intersections (is that safer?), or improve the safety of the mid-block crossings. For instance, put in a median island, and a ped-controlled stop light.

  9. Doug,

    You bring up an interesting scenario, and that is both of the bus stops I have used to get home.

    When I lived in Tualatin, my bus stop was located 1/3rd of a mile (in each direction) from the nearest signallized intersection. To make matters worse, the bus stop was located on a blind curve with a speed limit of 45 (vehicles commonly travelled at 55). However it was the closest stop for two apartment complexes and an entire residential community. (In comparison, the next signal was literally in “the middle of nowhere”, although a new office building is being constructed at that location.)

    My current bus stop is located along Barbur Blvd., where the nearest signallized crosswalk is also 1/3rd of a mile northeast – however by choosing that option, there are no sidewalks on the south side of Barbur (but there is a rather large drainage ditch), nor are there sidewalks on any nearby streets (i.e. Capitol Highway). There is a sidewalk along Barbur directly across the street from my bus stop. The nearest signal, located at 60th Avenue (atop I-5), does not have a crosswalk due to the lack of a sidewalk on the north side of the overpass.

    This is something that should have been made a transit priority 25 years ago, but sadly Metro can only come up with a lousy $300,000 for that line item. However it can come up with nearly $1,000,000 to subsidize a local company to build a Streetcar prototype, and several million dollars for specific LRT projects. Rather, Metro should be spending about $10 million (annually) for bus stop improvements; something that would go a long way towards improving bus service and attracting ridership.

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