City planners in West Palm Beach are taking a novel approach to address the problem of pedestrian accidents. They're using dancers to educate about the dangers of pedestrian collisions and to get information which can help them prevent pedestrian accidents in the future. WPTV reported on their innovative efforts, which will hopefully be helpful in one of the top states for pedestrian accidents in the country.
According to WPTV, West Palm Beach put dancers in a downtown crosswalk located at the intersection of Quadrille Boulevard and Clematis Street. The purpose of putting dancers in this location is to draw attention to the fact this intersection should be re-worked. The intersection is one of the most crowded in the downtown West Palm Beach area and it is a high-risk location for pedestrians.
The innovative dance project is part of a six-month research project which is being funded by Swedish researchers. The city of West Palm has been provided with around $30,000 to find out what changes need to be made in the downtown area and to make the area more pedestrian friendly. The dancers are a small part of the city planner's efforts to make roadways more friendly to walkers and bicycle riders.
Not only are the dancers drawing attention to the overcrowding at the intersection, but they are also helping planners find out what changes need to be made throughout the downtown area. When people approach the dancers to ask them what is going on, the passerby are asked to fill out a survey about how they make use of the downtown area. Based on this information, improvements can be prioritized.
A spokesperson for the West Palm Beach Development Association commented on the project and on the program to improve pedestrian safety, stating: "Having vibrant, walkable public spaces is a very big attractor of investment and business revenue of residential people, so we are really trying to get it right and get it as right as we can....and using this sort of process of gathering information and then also raising awareness combined is a great way to go about it."
Hopefully, this will be an effective way to reduce pedestrian crashes. City planners may also wish to consider innovative approaches, such as using Google Streetview to get a better understanding of pedestrian safety. A recent Forbes article suggested Google street view makes it easier and cheaper to assess which characteristics of intersections work well for pedestrians and which need improvement.
The use of Google Streetview to improve pedestrian safety was part of a five year long study at Columbia University. Researchers were able to see risk factors for pedestrian crashes and found locations with visual distractions like billboards were more dangerous. West Palm Beach planners may wish to consider this option as part of their ongoing efforts to improve safety for walkers.