Two intersections in downtown West Palm have had their traffic control signals changed recently in an effort to improve pedestrian safety. Palm Beach Post indicates the change happened after numerous complaints about the intersections being unsafe for pedestrians. Hopefully, the change will make roads safer and reduce pedestrian accidents.
Unfortunately, problems with traffic control signals are just one of many issues which plague pedestrians in downtown walking areas. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Florida is one of four U.S. states where 42 percent of all pedestrian accidents nationwide occur (the others are California, New York, and Texas).
New traffic controls and better intersection design can help solve the problem, but ultimately drivers and pedestrians have to make smart choices for crash avoidance.
The change to the downtown West Palm Intersections was made by Country Traffic. The two intersections affected were Quadrille and Clemantis; and Quadrille and Hibiscus Roads. Previously, these intersections required pedestrians to push a call button in order to get a WALK signal on the crosswalk and have enough time to cross the road.
Many pedestrians did not realize that a WALK signal was needed because no other traffic intersections in downtown along Olive or Dixie required pedestrians to push a button. In fact, most of the other intersections in downtown West Palm didn't even have a push button at all. The WALK signal would simply come up automatically when there was a green signal for traffic.
Now, the intersections which had previously required a button to be pushed will no longer require this. This means many vehicles using Quadrille road will have to stop and wait, whereas before they did not unless a pedestrian specifically requested the ability to cross.
The shift reflects an ongoing change both in Florida and nationwide as to how traffic intersections are designed. For a long time, roads were designed primarily or solely with a focus on keeping vehicle traffic moving and making the roads easier for cars to navigate. Now, however, lawmakers on the local and state level are becoming more cognizant of the need for cars to safely share the road with pedestrians as well as with bicycle riders. This is referred to as creating fully integrated active transportation networks.
The Department of Transportation issued a Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations to stress the importance of accommodating pedestrians. The guidelines expressed federal support for improving pedestrian conditions, stating: "The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems."
While the shift towards designing roads for walkers and bikers, as well as drivers, has been a slow one, at least progress is being made.