I don’t know about other parts of the country, but here in Greater Lansing, crossing (or crosswalk) signals seem to be timed based on Olympic sprinters. Personally, I cannot even make it across while riding my bike before the dumb signal starts blinking (please note – here we have extra wide shared-use sidewalks for bikes and pedestrians).
Sadly, in many suburban and some urban areas, pedestrians and cyclists must play a game of crosswalk roulette to get across busy streets. Far too often, people will forgo the healthier options so not to risk losing at crosswalk roulette and instead they drive to their destination.
Exactly how do traffic engineers expect senior citizens, those that are wheelchair bound, people using walkers, or small children to safely cross a busy street if the stupid signal expects them to cross it at warp speed? I have even observed some impatient drivers behind the lead car waiting to turn right honk at them for not moving fast enough because I am in the crosswalk. Granted that is an education issue, but it should not be that way.
It is my belief that those communities who modify their infrastructure to be more accommodating to non-motorized transportation options will reap the benefits of being more vibrant and healthy. Meanwhile, those places that continue to latch onto the dated custom of designing solely around the automobile will eventually end up in the landfill of outdated thought.
There are many options out there from just adjusting the timing of the signals, to adopting a complete streets ordinance, to employing traffic calming techniques, to enhancing the non-motorized infrastructure, to tighter enforcement policies, to good old common sense. Personally, I will be glad when more jurisdictions here locally adopt such efforts and actually coordinate them with one another – oh there’s a fresh concept.
The saddest part of this whole issue is that our society must actually take concerted steps to become (or remain) walkable. Frankly, that should be a no-brainer. But in far too often, being and/or staying walkable is a challenge rather than a fact.