August 7, 2019

Offering Suggestions on Making Pedestrian Crosswalks Safer

To the Editor:

Multiple studies have found that automobile-to-pedestrian injuries, and fatalities, occur most frequently within the crosswalk: not mid-block but within the crosswalk — those white-striped paths marking all traffic corners nationwide. We walkers assume this circumscribed passageway is not only a pedestrian privilege but also a pedestrian sanctuary. It is not. We drivers assume pedestrians are vigilant, deliberative, and judicious. They are not. Tragedies occur at intersections each year even within the greater Princeton area.

Investigators who study this contradiction ascribe it to heavy traffic, to pedestrian light-running, and to drivers who look in one direction and turn in another. But I think there is another component: white stripes on a black street background camouflage the walker. For the driver a vertically-lined strip, as well as the associated median, gutter, and turn lines, obfuscate to some degree any figure upon it and this loss of discrimination is especially difficult in poor light. To be immediately alerted to whatever is on the intersection the pedestrian strip background must be uniform — not patterned — and it must be colored light to bright, white or yellow, better yet chartreuse since it is the color theme Princeton uses at pedestrian crossways already.

The problem I describe is serious, universal, and common. No one component is the solution to this pressing and complex problem but a flagrant, bold-faced advertisement of the crosswalk to both driver and walker is central.

Buzz Stenn
Bayard Lane