Walkable West Palm Beach

Pedestrian bling is part of the problem, not the solution


FDOT tweeted this yesterday.

What’s wrong in this photo? Here are a couple observations.

  • Who is this crosswalk serving? Look at the adjacent land uses. Largely undeveloped other than a few intersecting low volume roadways. There are no visible sidewalks in the photo parallel to the right of way. And there shouldn’t be, because this road section is well designed for high speed car travel. And that’s a good thing. We get into trouble when we confuse roads and streets, which have very different objectives. This is a well designed road, designed for moving cars quickly from A to B. Putting “pedestrian bling” in the clear zone just confuses matters and creates truly dangerous obstacles for high speed vehicular travel
  • The “crosswalk” street name signage is cute, but completely ineffective in this environment. It’s human scale signage designed to be read at human speed (less than 20 mph), not in a car doing 50+ mph.
  • Push button and flashing pedestrian light complete with decorative pole. All the trappings of a safe street environment. None of the effectiveness, in practice.
  • The notion that we should expect cars to stop on a dime for a pedestrian in this environment is absurd. Six lanes, three in each direction, with speeds easily exceeding 50 mph just guessing from the road geometry.

Just as walkability advocates need to be rigorous about the places where walkability makes sense, we also need to be rigorous about places where it doesn’t make sense. FDOT, spare us the pedestrian bling and save your money on creating safer, better pedestrian infrastructure where it makes sense and will be used.

[h/t to Strong Towns for much of the inspiration of this post]

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7 thoughts on “Pedestrian bling is part of the problem, not the solution

  1. great insight jesse. so obvious that it’s difficult to articulate, but I am glad someone can figure out how to so eloquently. The absurdity is crippling to say the least. Compare that to the crosswalk signage on Flagler northbound, you know that one where the leaves cover it approaching the bend??


    • Exactly. There’s some ineffective, showy ‘bling’ pedestrian crossings on the waterfront that just don’t work in practice. If cars zoom 40+ mph along Flagler (and they do), we’ve failed to design a human friendly, safe place.

      Thanks for commenting.


  2. Nice article. Two little observations:
    – The stroad appears to be a four lane not six lane configuration
    – This may be Overseas Highway (US 1) in the Florida Keys, if it is then it is a continuous barrier running down the full length smak dab in the middle of all the islands (save Key West of course).
    Neither of these observations changes the substance of your article.
    Great piece, thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, couldn’t tell if it was 6 lanes or if that was a shoulder on the far side of the photo. Like you said, doesn’t change the substance of the post. Thanks for the comment!

      PS I’ve been hearing rumors about FDOT looking at rail possibilities to Key West. I find this exciting and disturbing all at once.


  3. All you needed was Drake doing that uncomfortable dance, while trying to cross the stroad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Slapping Flashy Crosswalks on Stroads Misses the Point of Complete Street | Streetsblog.net

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