Ped Islands

The new cool thing to do in traffic engineering is providing pedestrian refuge islands in the middle of roadways to help make streets more pedestrian friendly. The idea is that if a roadway is particularly wide, then providing a refuge island in the middle of the roadway allows pedestrians to take on one direction of traffic at a time.

Overall, they’re a very good idea and I like them a lot. What kills me, though, is when designers assume that as long as there’s a refuge island, the design is pedestrian friendly, and the other design elements don’t matter… as if anybody actually likes hanging out on ped islands. While sometimes I appreciate their presence, I usually want to spend as little time there as possible.

There are two basic options to providing pedestrian islands. The first option is to use some of the existing roadway space to provide the island. This results in an overall increase in pedestrian space and an overall decrease in automobile space. The total distance across the street remains the same. The concept design shown above appears to be of this variety. This is the type I like.

The second option is to widen the roadway enough that there is no decrease in automobile space, but only an addition in pedestrian space. This means that the overall distance across the roadway increases by the width of the island. These treatments are bitter-sweet. While ped islands can be convenient, what I’d really prefer is a narrowed roadway to begin with.

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