Later this week, Bikemore will be pairing up with public artist Graham Coreil-Allen to create a temporary crosswalk connecting Auchentoroly Terrace to Druid Hill Park. The idea is to create a “demonstration crosswalk” and have supporters walk and bike across the path to show their support for more walkable infrastructure.
This location makes a lot of sense for this type of action; while Druid Hill contains all types of amenities resident want, the park is separated from the adjoining Woodbrook neighborhood by up to eight lanes of automobile traffic. Even with traffic signals, these lanes create a barrier that deters pedestrians from interacting with the park.
This is a problem throughout Baltimore, where hundreds of pedestrians are struck by automobiles a year, often while attempting to cross at designated intersections. This problem is only exacerbated where heavily traffic roads create barriers to destinations. Community Architect Daily has discussed this at length as it relates to the Inner Harbor.
There are ways to makes crossings and intersections safer for pedestrians, many of which involved adding physical features that slow automobile traffic and force drivers to be more attentive to the the movement of their car. These include things like bump outs, raised crossings, and tight curb radii. San Francisco has adopted many of these features in their guidelines for creating more pedestrian friendly intersections. NextCity also has a fairly good round up of pedestrian-friendly features.
It’s obvious to anyone who has walked in Baltimore that the city does not embody many of these standards, much to the detriment of anyone not in car. Even areas with high pedestrian traffic still use beg buttons, are missing curb cuts, or even lack marked crossings.
There are small signs of hope, though. For instance, BDOT is experimenting with adding a Barnes Dance to the intersection at Pratt and Gay Streets downtown. Popularized by Henry Barnes, who once served as Baltimore’s traffic commissioner, the Barnes Dance is an intersection with a pedestrian-only signal phase that allows people cross from every direction at once.
While car-centric engineering has removed a lot of these types of intersections, they are making a comeback in many major cities. DC has recently installed a Dance at the intersection of 7 and H in Chinatown complete with bright and colorful crossing markings which clearly mark the intersection as being open to pedestrians. While a Barnes Dance isn’t appropriate for the Auchentoroly Terrace crossing, there are many intersections in the city that could benefit from prioritizing pedestrians in this way. I hope Bikemore and Coreil-Allen continue setting up demonstration crosswalks across the city. If we’re lucky, Baltimore will hop on this trend and begin putting some of our local artists to work creating colorful, ped-friendly intersections of our own.