A 3-D Approach to Public Investment

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This road in Austin, for example, uses multiple methods to mitigate risk. 

Narrow Road: While this street is wide, motor vehicle traffic is only two lanes. The remaining space is used as bike lanes (added visual separation from automobiles with vinyl poles) and on-street parking. The road design not only may lead drivers to naturally drive a little slower, but also leads to shorter automobile-lane crossing times for pedestrians. 

Street Light: A red light is used when pedestrians are crossing this road. Similar techniques are used in other circumstances—for example, you’ve probably somewhere seen flashing lights that tell you what your vehicle speed is. You may have also seen flashing yellow lights—dryly, but appropriately called Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB). 

Pedestrian Sign and Walk Sign: Added signals for both drivers and pedestrians. 

Crosswalk Art: Like the Windcrest crosswalk, this crossing may draw people’s attention. Perhaps this artsy crossing could even encourage some pedestrians to cross at the designated location. (Even when crosswalks are appropriate solutions, this assumes pedestrians will cross at designated crossing which we all know is not always the case.)

So what did actually happen to the 3-D Windcrest crosswalk?  After reaching out to the City of Windcrest, I received a polite, helpful explanation.  The Windcrest 3-D crosswalk disappeared during a road resurfacing, and it was not reinstated due to Texas Department of Transportation regulations.

To me, while it was disappointing not to see the 3-D illusion when it still existed in Windcrest, the most interesting part of this story is not the crosswalks themselves; it’s communities taking creative action in a quest to increase community safety and well being. 

In order to make effective change, let’s think beyond only giant gestures as ways to improve our roads and communities. A few days spending hours at the gym will certainly get someone sore, but 20 minutes a day done consistently will make them healthier over time. Similarly, large investments in infrastructure have a purpose, but cannot replace the day-in day-out work communities can do on a community scale

The more we can address the individual needs of our diverse, dynamic communities, the stronger and more resilient we will become. 

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