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Crossing Islands / Pedestrian Median Islands

Making Streets that Work (1996) describes pedestrian refuge islands as raised islands in the center of the street protecting the pedestrian from moving traffic. They allow pedestrians an opportunity to cross one half of the roadway, with a safe place to stop before crossing the second half of the roadway. They are typically constructed at marked crosswalks either at a midblock location or at an intersection (p. 70).

The Portland Pedestrian Design Guide (1998) also includes in its definition the role crossing islands may play in reducing wait times for pedestrians to cross the street: At unsignalized crosswalks on a two-way street, a median refuge island allows the crossing pedestrian to tackle each direction of traffic separately. This can significantly reduce the time a pedestrian must wait for an adequate gap in the traffic stream (p. C-5).

According to the Pedestrian Bicycle Information Center, crossing islands serve the following purposes: enhance pedestrian crossings, particularly at unsignalized crossing points; reduce vehicle speeds approaching pedestrian crossings; and highlight pedestrian crossings.

By providing a refuge for pedestrians that is removed from the flow of traffic, crossing islands begin to return the street environment, and the city, back to the scale of the human being. They also provide documented improvements in safety for pedestrians crossing a roadway. Medians, crossing islands and pedestrian refuges can also be a way to achieve traffic calming.

Crossing Island

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