Following the Flow of the People with Crosswalks
Crosswalks in Curitiba, Brasil. Photo from Ads Of the World.

Crosswalks in Curitiba, Brazil. Photo from Ads Of the World.

We all know that crosswalks facilitate the safe movement of pedestrians across streets. We should heed them, walk within them and avoid jaywalking. A number of designers are rethinking the traditional concept of the crosswalk in favor of designs that that mimic the natural movement of people, utilize lighting, or simply employ unusual imagery to draw attention to the street itself.   TheCityFix recently outlined the history of crosswalk placement and its wonk-ish terminology and appearance, but we found some other approaches to these urban byways.

Shape

A few years ago, Los Angeles installed 10 diagonal crosswalks, highlighted in Streetsblog.

An image of Los Angeles' diagonal crosswalk. Photo by LADOT.

An image of Los Angeles' diagonal crosswalk. Photo by LADOT.

The design allows pedestrians to literally dominate the intersection, for at least a short period of time.  More recently, designer Jae Min Lim developed another pedestrian-favored lay out, the “ergo crosswalk,” highlighted in the 2010 Seoul Design Fair. His inspiration? The jaywalkers who cross roads by taking the fastest possible route from one side to the other. Lim says, “if regulations cannot force people to follow the law, wouldn’t it be more reasonable to change the law and fulfill the main purpose of keeping the safety and convenience of the pedestrian?”

A rendering of Lim's design. Photo via designboom.com

A rendering of Lim's design. Photo via designboom.com

Lim is one a few hundred shortlisted candidates for a Designboom competition in collaboration with Seoul Design Fair.  His idea mimics the urban planning philosophies that recognize how people move across space in ways that are convenient, safe, in dialogue with the urban landscape, and bring life to streets. This type of intuitive planning is often referred to as placemaking, or demonstrated through complete streets policies.

Lim's "ergonomic" crosswalk. Photo via designboom.com

Lim's "ergonomic" crosswalk. Photo via designboom.com

Lighting

Maybe even more unlikely than Lim’s design is this concept from a Russia-based firm that places lights on wires above a crosswalk for use at night.  The lights are parallel to the crosswalk below.  The designers at Art Lebedev Studio call their solution First Air Crosswalks, which first appeared in Tumen, Russia in 2009.

Art Lebedev's design.

Art Lebedev's design.

The People

And there’s the most simple concept yet: that a critical mass of pedestrians influences usage as much as design, if not more. One example is the Piedibus of Lecco, Italy, in which parents and staff lead students through the city with a visual cue that they are a group (the image below shows them holding bright orange balloons.) The New York Times wrote about the effort to encourage children to walk to school for their physical health.  Since 1960, there’s been a 27 percent decline in the proportion of children who walk to school.

Do you know of any odd crosswalks or interesting methods of getting from one side of the street to the other? Leave your observations in the comments.

The Piedibus in action.

The Piedibus in action.

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