February/March 2014 Updates - Why is the City of Tucson Sending Pedestrians to Their Doom?

While this blog awaits the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court in City of Phoenix v. Garretson, there seems like no better time to point out a public safety issue with which the City of Tucson sometimes struggles: pedestrian safety.

For instance, this mid-block South Craycroft Road crosswalk, which is just south of the intersection of Craycroft and Broadway, has been installed backwards, which turns pedestrians away from the traffic they should be facing as they cross the street:

Improper sidewalk construction turns pedestrians away from oncoming traffic as they cross

Proper sidewalk construction would turn pedestrians to enable perception of oncoming traffic

The figure on the right comes from a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) publication; the FHWA publishes the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is the "national standard for all traffic control devices installed on any street." One wonders how many more examples of this improper installation appear in the City of Tucson. 

3,000 vehicles pass through the intersection travelling on Speedway during peak hours - click to enlarge

Speedway Boulevard crosswalk at Beverly Avenue

Another mid-block crosswalk problem occurs when crosswalks are not properly signalized for the existing pedestrian and vehicle traffic. On Speedway Boulevard at Beverly Avenue, a striped and posted crosswalk exists without a signalized, high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK), even though the traffic count, pedestrian count, and length of the crosswalk strongly suggest the City should install a HAWK according to the MUTCD.

At both morning and evening peak one-hour periods, the combined Speedway Boulevard traffic in both directions at Beverly Avenue is over 3,000 vehicles; pedestrian numbers are not available but can be assumed to be greater than 20, given that the regional average pedestrian count per crosswalk is 238 pedestrians. The posted speed limit is 35 mph, and the length of the crosswalk is 90 feet across seven lanes of traffic. That puts this intersection off the chart used in the MUTCD for recommending a signalized crosswalk, where values in the green area of the chart recommend a HAWK:

Values located in the green dictate installation of a HAWK or other signalized crosswalk

As shown above, the pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Speedway could be halved and the recommendation to construct greater pedestrian-friendly facilities would still exist for this intersection. 

Tucson is, to a certain extent, to be commended for its efforts to make its streets pedestrian-friendly. Tucson invented the HAWK, which has advanced pedestrian safety in this town and others. Credit for that invention, however, merely gives Tucson recognition for creating a solution to a dangerous problem that should be avoided in the first place with better planning. The problem of large amounts of pedestrians crossing arterial thoroughfares could be avoided altogether by building a better overall City of Tucson transportation system.