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Daylighting: Make Your Crosswalks Safer

Daylighting is a simple pedestrian safety measure achieved by removing parking spaces adjacent to curbs around an intersection, increasing visibility for pedestrians and drivers and minimizing conflicts. It's beneficial to young and old, but is especially helpful to children, who often cannot see, or be seen by, oncoming traffic. By removing parking adjacent to the crosswalk, the child does not have to wade into the street to see vehicles entering the intersection. At the same time, drivers don't have to roll into the crosswalk to see if pedestrians are waiting to cross.

Compare the photos below, showing the sight line difference with and without a parked car.

Neighborhoods around NYC and beyond are nearly shouting for daylighting to be implemented for safer streets. Streetfilms went to Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan to check out what some neighborhood leaders have to say. And though we love the concept, we think the term, Daylighting, is a little stale. So how about some suggestions? As you'll see, we came up with one, "Pedestrian Peek-a-boo," but we're sure there are others out there.

Learn about daylighting on Streetswiki.

Clarence Eckerson Jr.: At Streetfilms it’s been our mission to explain the mundane and the difficult to grasp traffic concepts and make them more accessible to the general public. So for a while there’s been one term that’s been nagging at us, one that we’ve been wanting to tackle for quite some time. It’s a simple pedestrian safety strategy and it’s called Daylighting.

Teresa Toro: Daylighting is a term that describes removing kerbside parking from the area of sidewalk closest to an intersection so that visibility is improved [00:30] at the intersection for motorists and pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Shin-Pei Tsay: The problem is often that there’s parking available all the way up to the crosswalk, and as a pedestrian you often can’t see around the parked cars for approaching traffic. This truck here is preventing people from being able to see the crosswalk as they stand at the corner, and it also actually prevents drivers from being able to see pedestrians as they’re waiting to cross.

Clarence Eckerson Jr.: So right now I’m standing at an intersection where daylighting is in effect, the pedestrian crosswalk is there [01:00] and right before it we have a space where cars cannot park. This is daylighting.

Speaker: If everybody can see each other better that’s, I think, a very critical step towards making an intersection safer.

Speaker: Last May I was walking my five year old son to school, right along here, and an SUV came out of 52nd Street and slowed but never came to a full stop, and the girl ran into the crosswalk and got hit.

Angus B. Grieve-Smith: Cars don’t stop at the stop sign, they’ll just coast right through. It’s what a [01:30] friend of mine calls a stoptional sign.

Speaker: On September 19th, which was Parking Day, we occupied this last parking space and used it to raise awareness. Over 200 people signed a petition in support of our plan.

Bill Gratzer: I am a driver and even with the possibility of losing a few parking spots, I support the idea of daylighting because I think that personal inconvenience should take a [02:00] backseat to general public safety.

Shin-Pei Tsay: It’s actually one of the cheapest and cost-effective ways of providing greater safety for pedestrians. You just need to change the policy at the intersection and just say, you know, no parking for this amount of space.

Shin-Pei Tsay: Once you actually daylight an intersection there is this little extra space at the intersection for a host of amenities. Some things that we often say that our busy sidewalks can’t handle are benches or more bike parking or [02:30] planting, you know, trees, greening the space. Those are things that invite people to walk. And bike parking is actually much lower than parked cars. So as a pedestrian you’re able to look at the intersection, even with bike parking. It’s also then an opportunity to extend the kerb and narrow the intersection so that people have an easier time crossing the street.

Shirley Secunda: The Department of Transportation has actually taken it upon themselves to daylight some of these [03:00] corners on Washington Street. We feel there’s a great opportunity to put bicycle parking here and we have asked for specific spots, including this very spot.

Clarence Eckerson Jr.: So we hope you learned something today about daylighting, and we hope this is a tool that people of the United States and around the world are able to use to advocate for daylighting in their community. Now we’re not fond of that term and I’m sure a lot of you out there aren’t either, so today we’re taking nominations, what would you rather see this term called instead of daylighting? [03:30] My personal nomination would be Pedestrian Peek-A-Boo, and the reason I say that is because when you see people standing on the corner in the before and after photo zooms, before you can’t see them, you take away the car afterwards, peek-a-boo, there’s the people. So let’s hear what you’ve got to say and thanks for watching Streetfilms.

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Robin Urban Smith is a multimedia storyteller who prefers to go by bike.

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  • http://hembrow.blogspot.com David Hembrow

    Interesting. I didn't realise anywhere in the world didn't already do this.

    There are photos on wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebra_crossing ) of British Zebra Crossings showing the zig-zag lines near the crossings on which a motorist is not allowed to park.

    Actually, there is also a webcam here, showing zig-zags that were not in place when the famous album cover photograph was made: http://www.abbeyroad.com/visit/

  • Doug Aroth

    WoW! Never seen anything like this. A plus work guys.

  • Ed Pino

    The more you see,the more you SEE!
    Thanks
    Ed

  • mary beth kelly, Upper West Side Streets Renaissance

    Thank you, Streetfilms, for once again coming through with a great tool. Yours is the visual accomplaniement we needed last Monday when an enthisiastic group of Upper West Side neighbors met to brainstorm together, We all wanted livable streets, and "Daylighting," as one of the easiest alterations to make, was at the top of our list. We plan to make our needs known to Comunity Board #7 and the DOT. Daylighting was a no-brainer for every person that even began to look at our intersections from a pedestian"s vantage.
    Particularly for our most vulnerable; the elderly and the young, Daylighting, or perhaps "pedestrian 20/20" (my suggestion for the practice) needs implementing without delay. Reducing the fear-stress of navigating this city, walking or cycling makes for happier people, not to mention saving lives.
    We can proceed now with one more tool in our box for demonstation at these gatherings and board meetings thanks to this video.
    Mary Beth

  • http://www.urbanmilwaukee.com Jeramey Jannene

    I think a better name might be exposed intersections or exposed crosswalks. It might seem a little odd at first, but I think it conveys the meaning of the phrase.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/trorb Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Thanks for the ideas and feedback. Keep it coming. One thing I think is so great is that if this became the norm in in busy downtown areas, it would create such a better walking environment.

    I'd also like to address the person that emailed me personally to comment that our one shot of a truck parked is not "typical". I actually beg to differ, in fact here in NYC the biggest problems are with trucks and large vans that park right at the end of a street thus really blocking the sight of pedestrians and drivers. I see it every day.

  • Spencer

    The process of opening up the driver's view like that reminds me of the difference between standard TV aspect ratio and the widescreen aspect ratio of movies, like Cinemascope. So maybe a play on "widescreen", or some other cinematic-type reference? Like wide-screening, wide-viewing, wide-scoping, etc.

    Maybe a play on "panorama" or "prospect"?

    Curb-sighting? Corner-clearing?

    I actually don't mind "daylighting," though it wasn't apparent to me what it meant until I watched the video.

    And good job on the video, BTW! You guys make this stuff fun.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/grvsmth Angus Grieve-Smith

    Interesting, Spencer. Maybe "wide-angle views" at intersections? Wide-angle crosswalk views?

  • Spencer

    Oh right, wide-angle, of course. So the act of making these changes could be said to be "wide-angling" a crosswalk.

    Heh, a really wide-angle lens is called a fish-eye. Would you want to "fish-eye" your intersection?

    (I like "wide-angling" better.)

  • Chris in Sacramento

    Removing parked cars is good for beautification, and that's reason enough to do more of it. And in-street bike parking is the best!

    But removing the parked cars as a safety tool? One can currently treat the parked cars as bulb outs of sorts; while waiting to cross the street, stand near the end of the car bumper, not on the curb. The short street crossing benefit of the bulb out is already present.

    Instead of aiding safety, removing the car parking without installing a bulb out or bike corral may have the effect of increasing the turning radius available to cars approaching the intersection, thus encouraging speeding. The cars currently parked at the intersection, ugly as they are, have a slight traffic calming effect because they narrow the roadway in the eyes of the motorist.

  • Joann Gomez-Bugari

    I think it's a great idea----this would make it safer for pedestrians and drivers. What about for the one's that do enable this service ....."Caring Crosswalk" or "Pedestrian Friendly Walkway"

    ---a very large percentage of people in the city use mass transit and walk or bicycle to their jobs and schools-they do not have the safety of a car with airbags of metal to protect them----they have rights as well---and they are the ones taking a risk day after day.....Great topic Clarence---keep up the good work and public awareness.

  • tb

    Muni uses this at some tight corners so that the buses can make their turn. There's a red curb on Ashbury at Haight St, for instance. Of course, there's almost always a car parked in that red zone, what with parking being so scarce in the Haight. I agree that bulb-outs are much more effective than simply "removing" a parking place.

  • http://routeclub.nl Stefan Langeveld (Amsterdam)

    I support Chris in Sacramento: risk compensation at work. If you can see less when approaching, you will slow down and vice versa.
    Better to continue with seats and other furniture, art at the corners or in the middle of the intersection.
    Create a social/human environment, use intrigue.
    Read Mental Speed Bumps http://mentalspeedbumps.com .

  • Wendy Scher

    Bike parking on the street next to an intersection? I don't think so!! Our present bike racks are close enough to moving vehicles as it is. The only people that streetcorner bike racks would benefit are scrappers looking for a few more destroyed bikes to cash in.

  • http://www.urbanedibles.org Julie

    Sweet vid - a concept that puts 2 and 2 together.

    Daylighting = New Corners or the P Walk.

  • Joanna Smith

    This makes so much sense, especially the built-out version where drivers can't even be tempted to stand for a minute. The name should be something having to do with increased visibility: HighViz, SuperSight, Clearcorner, Lowrise.

  • Dave

    A name suggestion........"curb cropping" in lieu of "daylighting." "Crop" in the sense of reducing the parking spaces and "crop" in the sense of new growth (planted, perhaps) in the claimed area.

    A GREAT IDEA.

    DAVE W. BROOKLYN, NY

  • teb

    I concur with Chris in Sacramento! This isn't a good idea for safety at all! (unless maybe if they are replaced by bulb-outs with a tight turning radius). This is typical old-fashioned traffic thinking; remove all obstacles, increase sight distances and assume people are idiots driving bumper cars! Even if it is marginally (and i'm not saying it is) safer for the pedestrian crossing directly in front of a car (perpendicular), what about the pedestrian crossing parallel to a car? If this is at a light or stop sign, the car should already be coming to a full stop before turning when people are crossing (doesn't work if they're crossing against the light). It's the people crossing parallel to right turning cars that are the major concern at intersections. Any increase in speed is bad for them.

    And people frequently queue up on the asphalt, basically in the street, behind the protection of a parked cars (could be a bulbout). This decreases the effective crossing distance which is huge for pedestrian safety.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/darkpilot Ian D

    Teb above is right - and wrong.

    Daylighting is not really for the people crossing the street from which the parking is removed, though it helps visibility for them.

    What daylighting is REALLY for is the people who are crossing the cross-street! Imagine a vehicle approaching an intersection, and that vehicle is going to make a turn onto the cross-street. The vehicle has a green light at the same time that peds crossing the cross-street have a walk signal - so everybody goes! And therein lies the danger - the biggest killer of pedestrians, I believe - the right-hook (or left-hook).

    If the driver is unaware that someone is crossing because of a combination of poor visibility, excessive speed, and unwillingness to yield (aggressiveness), the pedestrian pays the price. If we remove the obstacles to the driver's field of view, we can at least hope that the driver will be motivated to not run over the people who he or she can now see clearly.

    When NYC DOT proposed daylighting along the length of Washington St. in the West Village that you show in the video, they had very good visuals as to why daylighting was helpful - especially on the left-side for left-turns, due to the geometry of the driver sitting on the left. We (the Community Board) have taken the extra step, now, to push for replacement uses for those daylighted spaces - bike parking, greening, and amenities like benches, where neighbors can enjoy their community. As we all know, a spot marked "No Parking" or "No Standing" is a welcome mat for large delivery trucks - the worst vehicle imaginable in a spot that was supposed to be for daylighting!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/pfrishauf Peter Frishauf

    Last May DOT undertook some very effective daylighting at one intersection of Riverside Drive and 79th Street in Manhattan. And they did it after I ran into DOT's Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione at a meeting of Community Board 7. I mentioned the problem with the intersection, she asked me to email her, and within weeks she had engineers look at the intersection. DOT agreed with my assessment that two parking spaces be removed from the corner, and they had new signs up a few weeks later. So the lesson, here, is speak up and let DOT know. For dramatic before and after picturs, see my post over at StreetsWiki: http://www.livablestreets.com/projects/dangerous-intersections/79th-street-and-riverside-drive.

    Another thought: we get automatic daylighting when there's a fire hydrant at a corner! Take a moment to appreciate the street view the next time you visit a corner with that piece of street furniture. Not only does it improve your experience, it can save lives, and become a play sprinkler in the summers. Oh, yes, of course dogs like them too (is it the competitive hydrant instinct?)

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I said this on Streetsblog and I'll say it again here. Parking within 25 feet of a crosswalk and 50 feet in front of a stop sign is illegal in New Jersey and most other places in the US. There are obvious public safety reasons for these rules. The only reason NY allows (that I can think of) is to squeeze in more on-street parking.

    Also roads narrowed by parked cars don't seem to have any effect on NYC drivers especially when you add the enhanced speed effect you get when driving down roads with very tall buildings on either side. I think you can throw out the most basic traffic calming rules with NYC drivers. It seems only extreme traffic calming measures could have any effect here.

  • http://conservion.com Martin Pion

    The UK Zebra Crossing was mentioned in the first post. To find an official on-line reference go to the link at http://tinyurl.com/6jbybk and croll down to #19 to see an illustration.
    Zebra Crossings, as they are popularly known, were first proposed in parliament by Lord Belisha many decades ago and have been very successful. The flashing round orange lamps marking the crossing are called "Belisha beacons." The zig-zag no-parking zone is an essential element and as is pointed out in this Streetfilms video, provides much improved visibility for pedestrians waiting to cross.
    Something to note: if a vehicle operator hits a pedestrian in such a crossing it is treated very seriously by the courts. Also, because of the expense of installation, they are only approved when the combination of ADT [Average Daily Traffic count] plus the number of pedestrians wanting to cross at this location meets minimum criteria. They don't just slap these in whenever pedestrians call for them.
    These details are what help to make these crossings effective, in contrast to the minimalist approach in the U.S. where just a couple of parallel painted lines, stop bars, plus sign panels are all that are required and they tend to be overused.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/gkulick Gil Kulick

    It's not clear to me what daylighting accomplishes that couldn't be accomplished by bulb-outs of the sidewalks into the intersection to the depth of the parking lane? This would provide the desired visibility of and for pedestrians without inviting or permitting sharper right-hand turns or losing parking spaces, which is usually the biggest source of resistance to street changes.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    To me, in the graphic at the top, "before" looks way safer than "after."

    In "before," the parked cars constrain the moving auto, provide a barrier protection for the pedestrians and reduce the effective crossing distance.

    In "after," the peds are much more exposed to the vicissitudes of the approaching motorist.

    But, then again, I'm not crazy about bike boxes either :-).

  • Greg

    I kinda like "transparent corners." Or perhaps "visible corners." Has a nice positive ring without sounding like a trademarked word.

  • http://gettinaroundpnw.blogspot.com Mark K.

    Daylighting intersections is a great idea for not only pedestrians, but motorists and cyclists as well.

    By moving the vehicles back from the intersection by approximately one car length, those approaching to cross the intersection have a better view of traffic approaching or at the intersection.

    To those who claim that pedestrians can move off the sidewalk and use the parked car as kind of a barrier need to consider that such action may set drivers moving through the intersection for a traffic ticket, depending on how the officer interprets and applies the law. I have seen tickets issued with a pedestrian stepped off the curb mid-block as a driver went by, never mind there wasn't an intersection right there and even had the driver slammed on his brakes, he would have been beyond the pedestrian by the time he came to a stop. Even if such tickets get dismissed in the end, it costs everyone time and money needlessly.

    I would prefer to see such daylighting measures include building up a bulb-out or something to provide a physical barrier and discourage parking. As many can attest, open pavement that is not physically blocked off will become a parking spot, even if illegally.

  • Mike Cohn

    How about calling it "eye-sighting"?

    It's increasing the sight lines by widening the periphery.

  • http://www.lacreekfreak.wordpress.com Joe Linton

    There is one thing to be careful of - done frequently in the car-centric city of Los Angeles. Our DOT daylights parking 30-50+ feet at these intersections, then jams a left turn pocket into the center of the street. A tad more visibility... but it pushes moving cars out to the right, closer to the pedestrians at the corner. This turns a 4-lane road into a 5-lane road at intersections.

    This is certainly not what the (excellent) video is advocating... it's just a cautionary note that when you start removing some of the space from parked cars, be careful that space doesn't get reallocated to moving cars.

  • Bronwyn R.

    Glad you guys thought to show Portland, OR and show how the city has conbined the added safety of "day-lighting" with the installment of bioswales to filter our city's (abundant) stormwater runoff all while creating more attractive pedestrian experiences!

  • Gman2b

    How 'bout Pedestrian Clearsighting as an alternative term.

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