Kate is a senior nursing student at University of Missouri and will be graduating in May. She hopes to stay here in Columbia, and go back to school to get her Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner degree to someday work in dermatology.
Recently I was traveling in Las Vegas, which should truly be called the “city that never sleeps.” There were people walking everywhere all the time. It was an amazing sight to see – sky rise hotels and casinos filling the sky while masses of people from all over the world overflowed the streets. While in Vegas, walking was my primary method of transportation. With my new insight to active transportation, I was aware of a few big differences between Sin City and CoMo. First, there were clearly marked pedestrian crossings at every intersection I approached. This may be because I stayed mostly on the strip and these were all major intersections, but it was evident that pedestrians ruled the roads here.
According to an article from Berkley education on crosswalks, “Markings are viewed as proof that pedestrians have a legitimate right to share the roadway. However, by legal definition, crosswalks may exist whether they are marked or not.” While crosswalks signal safety to pedestrians and caution to drivers, they should not be entered without careful assessment. Pedestrians account for 12% of all traffic fatalities, and 30% of all pedestrian fatalities are related to improper crossing of the roadway or intersection. These are significant statistics that should not be overlooked and strongly point toward the need for further improvement in crosswalks. Compared to Columbia, MO, Las Vegas streets had a lot of pedestrian bridges that went over busy streets, decreasing the pedestrian/car interactions. However, these are a very expensive accommodation that is not always the most appropriate use of resources.
The article from Berkley suggests a few ways to improve crosswalks, without building expensive bridges, which can dramatically improve safety for pedestrians. Providing a raised median and/or crossing islands give pedestrians a refuse in the middle, when crossing multi-lane roads. Installing signals is another way to make everyone more aware. I have seen these on many streets here in Columbia, signaling a countdown before the light will change so that pedestrians know just how long they have left in the intersection. Another improvement is to post an advance stop line with the warning sign “stop here for crosswalk” or to provide flashers and other traffic control devices at crosswalks that may not be associated with a stoplight. This I have seen in Columbia, but not in Las Vegas, or even my hometown in St. Louis. Las Vegas had very old and outdated crosswalks compared to Columbia, MO, but because of the sheer amount of constant pedestrian traffic, I believe things ran a little more smoothly for pedestrians.
Overall, I think in any situation, you must never rely on the traffic signal, warning sign, or clearly marked crosswalk before you step out into a street. You can never assume that the driver is paying attention to that sign or will stop at the red light. It is always better to be cautious and vigilant as a pedestrian and to remember the rules of the road! Happy walking!