Safer Crossing

Could a bold new street-design proposal help prevent pedestrian deaths?

Crossing the street can kill you, even in the most pedestrian-friendly cities. Are crosswalks part of the problem?

A firm called Ogrydziak Prillinger Architects is trying to reduce accidents by rethinking how people get from one side of the street to the other. The company, which is based in San Francisco (where an average of three pedestrians are hit by cars every day), has come up with a network of pedestrian lanes and planters that blur the usual boundaries ­between walkers and drivers. Its ­radical idea: Blending the street and sidewalk might actually save lives. "We saw the street as a kind of undiscovered public place," says cofounder Zoe ­Prillinger. "We wanted to challenge the conventional expectation that the pavement belongs to vehicles and the sidewalk belongs to pedestrians."

Here's how the concept--for which we've created our own rendering--would work.

  1. Curb Extensions

    The design starts with "bulb-outs," which make sidewalks bulge into the street and pedestrians more visible. Since ­putting pedestrians closer to traffic is riskier, the extensions have high ridges for more protection. The ridges also work as planters. "It becomes a kind of occupiable public space," says Prillinger.
  2. Hybrid Zone

    Safety interventions sometimes go unnoticed, so the ­architects wanted a design that's impossible to miss. A bold hatch pattern covers parts of both the sidewalk and street, creating a "­hybrid zone" that alerts drivers. "We're questioning who the street belongs to and making that question very visible and prominent," says Prillinger "We didn't want a strict dichotomy between street and sidewalk."
  3. Corner Benches

    These seating spaces protect pedestrians as they step into the street. They also provide a new space for community gardens, which encourages local ownership of the streetscape.
  4. Central Planters

    The plan isn't just about safety. Prillinger hopes the crosswalks will connect to each other visually and help create a "network of green" that "stitches everything together and pulls nature into the streets."

[Illustration by Sinelab]

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