Thursday, April 19, 2012

Leading Pedestrian Intervals

Most bicycle and pedestrian accidents are intersection related. Of those intersections controlled by a traffic light, most accidents occur within a few seconds of a change of lights. Those few seconds are a dangerous time for cyclists and pedestrians.

The City of Chicago has started making some changes to the timing of lights intended to address the dangers of changing lights. If you've been through the Loop lately you might have noticed that the timing of traffic lights has changed slightly. It used to be that when a light for any given direction turned red, other traffic got a green simultaneously. Now, many Loop lights have been altered so that when the light changes to red, there is a short time of two or three seconds in which all directions have a red. This is intended to allow a little extra time for the intersection to clear, and thereby reduce accidents.

The pedestrian signal does not coincide with the "all directions red." Instead, pedestrians get a head start on automotive traffic with an early walk signal, called a leading pedestrian interval. Personally, I like this. It discourages drivers from making turning movements in front of pedestrians. I also like that it shows preferential consideration for pedestrian traffic. If we really want to have complete streets we need to start protecting the most vulnerable users, and the leading pedestrian interval considers to do just that.