A City for Cars or for People?

Speaking of the Broadway Bridge, have you ever noticed the anti-people signs at the crosswalk across Broadway north of Markham? Apparently facilitating the rapid movement of automobiles out of Little Rock is more important than walkability. Well, at least this isn’t a major urban civic crossroads with City Hall on one corner, the main city auditorium and oldest surviving state capitol west of the Mississippi on another, and the County Courthouse on a third, right? Wrong!

Argument 1 for the signs: “There’s already so much traffic on Markham in the afternoons waiting to make that left turn onto Broadway that if you put a walk phase into the signal cycle the traffic would back up even more.”
A response: There’s a ton of traffic on Markham precisely because the traffic engineers have sacrificed the walk signal and designated two lanes with a protected left turn. Make that left turn from Markham onto Broadway less appealing and drivers will find another way. Guaranteed. Right now we don’t even allow a left turn from 3rd Street onto Broadway despite there being two east-bound travel lanes. We have a connected street grid downtown with many options for drivers, but the traffic engineers have altered it to funnel cars into certain patterns. Heck, a few drivers might even decide to ride the bus if we didn’t bend over backwards to make driving so easy.

Argument 2 for the signs: “It’s just too dangerous for pedestrians to cross there. The signs protect them.”
A response: Then make the intersection safer for pedestrians. Construct a raised crosswalk; lower car speeds by changing the pavement material; get bigger walk/don’t walk signs; shrink Broadway down from 5 lanes to 3 or 4 and construct sidewalk bump-outs to shorten the distance across. There are countless ways of making streets safer and more inviting for pedestrians if we decide to do so.