Failure to Yield and Crosswalk Design
In Somerville, MA we have this community path for bicyclists and pedestrians that stretches all the way to the neighbouring town of Arlington, grazing Cambridge along the way. The path is great, except that it is frequently interrupted by busy roads and the crossings can be challenging. We had this one particular interruption, where cyclists had to make a complicated series of turns and negotiate a major intersection in order to get from one stretch of the path to another. Then sometime last year, construction began at that intersection. Rumor had it they were making a crosswalk that would cut through the series of islands - a straight line connecting the disjointed stretches of community path. That is exactly what they did, and the new intersection was unveiled a couple of months ago.
It's hard to capture the whole thing in photographs; it is vast and consists of 4 separate crosswalk segments. But the pictures above each show a chunk that should give you an idea of how it's designed. In 3 of the 4 segments there are traffic lights with clear red and green signals. And there is another small segment not visible here where there is just a crosswalk without a traffic light. In theory the design is great, because it creates a direct line of travel connecting the community path, without forcing cyclists to make an elaborate detour. In practice however, there is one big problem: Drivers don't yield. Some drivers make right turns on a red light at full speed without even checking whether anyone is in the crosswalk, others make U-turns on a red light, and others still simply run the red light altogether. In some instances the drivers obviously see me, but proceed anyway, forcing me to stop abruptly in the middle of the intersection or to speed up if I am already in their line of travel.
Roughly half the time I go through this intersection, something like this happens - to the point where I absolutely do not trust it anymore. It's a shame that all this work was done, and drivers' failure to yield ruins it. It is also frightening that the crosswalks look so nice and friendly, while in reality it is quite dangerous. I cannot really think of a solution, but it's clear that something needs to change in the local drivers' mentalities in order for attempts to create decent, convenient infrastructure to be truly successful. The infrastructure itself is not always enough.