Live on a play street instead of a die street

Streetfilms has a new video up about Life on a Dutch Woonerf. In Dutch, woonerf means “living yard,” and, as you’ll see in the video, streets which prioritize people are excellent places to live. NACTO calls these Residential Shared Streets, and has a bunch of recommendations to turn your neighborhood street into a place safe enough for children to play, ride around in a cool bike squad, or get into just the right amount of kid-appropriate mischief.

Do streets like this exist in Richmond? If so, tell us! More likely, you probably have an idea for where such a street could exist in your community with the right improvements. Yeah, tell us about those, too!

The Art of a Good Crosswalk

WTAF is this crosswalk near the MCV campus?

That… is clearly not what a real crosswalk should look like. But it’s not just the region’s medical college that can’t settle on a simple, standard way to build a crosswalk. (BTW, there have been a number of complaints about pedestrian safety in that area of town over the past few weeks. From sidewalk closures to potholes to VCU employees blocking sidewalks with their big-ass vehicles, it does seem recently that VCU is walking all over us (weird pun intended?)). Richmond has gone back and forth over the years when it comes to crosswalks. At one point, we fell in love with brick crosswalks but haven’t done the best job maintaining them in some areas. Brick-red stamped asphalt crosswalks are less maintenance but collect dirt and become less visible over time, which is not what you want out of a crosswalk.

Good news: the City of Richmond has started retrofitting the the Fan’s traditional parallel line crosswalks (boo!) with high-visibility, ladder-design crosswalks (yay!). This is similar to a campaign recently undertaken by the District of Columbia to make sure that pedestrians have a clear place to cross and that drivers can see that crosswalk from as far away as possible. This is great because, according to NACTO, “High­-visibility ladder, zebra, and continental crosswalk markings are preferable to standard parallel or dashed pavement markings. These are more visible to approaching vehicles and have been shown to improve yielding behavior.”

And since we’re talking about the “art of a good crosswalk,” what about this masterpiece in Scott’s Addition? Is it more effective than a ladder-style crosswalk? Who knows?! No data! But it is the first and only artistic crosswalk intersection in Richmond (that we know of), and it looks cool. Why not experiment more with our street design?

Speaking of experiments: the City installed a new Rapid Flashing Beacon (RFB) crosswalk at 17th and Dock Street, where cars fly by on their way to and through downtown. A push of a button will cause yellow lights to flash, warning drivers that you, a human, are crossing the street. It’s pretty new, so too soon to say if it is effective at that location (you can find another RFB on Forest Hill Ave), but it will definitely take a change in driver culture before we see drivers immediately stop when those flashing lights come on.

But at least—AT LEAST—we haven’t started demanding that people look like nervous air traffic controllers at every crosswalk by offering them courtesy crossing flags (“Take It To Make It,” as Kirkland, WA helpfully suggests). We shouldn’t send folks out into traffic waving a flag while we ignore the real problems plaguing our streets: bad infrastructure design and distracted/selfish driving. 

Everyone uses crosswalks—no matter where you live, where you’re going, or what you’re doing. Cities should install them at every intersection that needs them, get creative with their design (without compromising their integrity — ahem, VCU), and, please, keep their paint fresh and visible.  

Thanks for reading the first post in our new project, Streets Cred.