It’s clear to most observers that city infrastructure was designed, first and foremost, for cars. If pedestrians and bicyclists were considered at all, they were an afterthought. In light of this, it isn’t surprising that pedestrian and bicyclist accidents are so common. Many drivers tend to be oblivious to walkers and bikers sharing the roads with them, and their attitudes are reinforced by infrastructure that caters to their vehicles.
The good news is that while we can’t completely rebuild infrastructure to be more inclusive of non-motor vehicles and pedestrians (at least not immediately), we can implement small changes that pay major dividends in improved safety. One such change, according to a recent study, is to install physical barriers on street centerlines to influence the way that drivers make left turns.
The study was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it refers to the suggested change as “centerline hardening.” In involves installing a series of short, sturdy posts known as “bollards” on centerlines just before intersections where drivers frequently make left turns. Most people don’t realize that left-turn accidents are some of the most common accident scenarios in cities. They often result in the turning drivers striking pedestrians in the crosswalks of streets they are turning onto.
By installing these centerline-hardening devices, drivers turning left are forced to make a turn that is close to a right angle, rather than the wide arcing turn that they might otherwise make. This means they are also forced to slow down and be deliberate about the path that their vehicle travels through a crosswalk. All of these changes greatly reduce the chances that they will strike or nearly strike a pedestrian.
One of the major selling points for centerline hardening is the fact that the barriers can be installed quickly in existing infrastructure, and at a cost that is much lower than many other safety features. Hopefully, cities like San Diego and Ramona will consider implementing these devices at numerous intersections.
On a final note, it is important to remember that drivers are ultimately responsible for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, regardless of whether there are pedestrian safety features present. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a negligent driver, please discuss your legal options with an experienced personal injury attorney.